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Man gets 2.5-15 years in drug death

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Westmoreland County man who procured the drugs that killed his best friend in August 2019 said Monday that he wished he could trade places with him.

“I wish every day that it was me instead of him,” said Christopher Guter, 31, Loyalhanna, who entered a guilty plea in Blair County Court to drug delivery resulting in death.

Travis J. Charney of Plymouth, Mass., a 31-year-old native of Patton, died of an overdose on Aug. 14, 2019, inside a Frankstown Township residence on Sylvan Oaks Drive during a visit to the area.

A state police investigation found that in the hours before Charney died, Charney and Guter had gone to Blairsville where Guter bought heroin to share with Charney.

“This was clearly not his intended outcome,” defense attorney David Beyer said Monday in court where he described Guter as extremely remorseful. “He was not aware of what was in those drugs.”

Charney’s autopsy results showed his system contained heroin, fentanyl and kratom, an herbal supplement used for various reasons.

Dustin Charney of Ebensburg sobbed in court as he spoke about the loss of his brother and how it affected him, his mother, other family members and Travis Charney’s longtime girlfriend, who lives in Massachusetts.

“You have created a ripple effect that you don’t begin to know,” Dustin Charney told Guter, who has been in the county prison since his arrest in May 2020.

Judge Jackie Bernard imposed the negotiated sentence of 2.5 years to 15 years incarceration recommended by Beyer and District Attorney Pete Weeks.

Weeks said he agreed to the minimum portion of the sentence, recognizing that had the case gone to trial, the defense could have argued that it was the kratom, a legally sold supplement, that led to Charney’s death.

Dustin Charney, who praised Weeks and state police for their work, said he didn’t agree.

“We know what killed Travis,” Dustin Charney said. “It wasn’t kratom. It was fentanyl.

Bernard told Guter that he should tell others what happened in an attempt to spare others from a similar experience.

“You took away the life of your very best friend,” the judge said. “You decimated his family.”

The judge also told Guter that his case “puts in perspective the real consequence of using drugs and of procuring drugs for another,” prompting Guter to nod in agreement.

In the sentencing order, Bernard directed Guter to make an annual $500 donation toward a memorial golf tournament being held in Charney’s memory in the Boston area.

At the time of his death, Travis Charney was employed as a cardiac cath lab technician at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Mass., and he was described as an avid golfer. He was a 2006 graduate of Cambria Heights High School and received an associate degree from Mount Aloysius College in Cresson.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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