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Cary Teen Found Guilty In Friend's Overdose Death

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A Cary teenager was found guilty Monday afternoon in connection with the death of 16-year-old Erica Hicks, who died last October from a drug overdose.

Judge Craig Croom found the teenage boy, whose name has not been released because he was tried as a juvenile, guilty of involuntary manslaughter and possession with intent to sell and deliver. Defense attorneys plan to appeal the verdict.

Under a rarely used law that allows the state to charge a person with murder for providing drugs that kill someone else, the boy had been charged with second-degree murder, but both prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that Croom could consider the lesser charge when he made his ruling.

Before handing down his ruling, however, Croom told everyone in the courtroom that the case was about parents taking responsibility for their children.

Hicks' family members said after the ruling that they are relived that the boy was found guilty, but wishes he had been found guilty of murder.

"Honestly, I think he should have been found guilty of second-degree murder, but my sister is in the grave," said Stephanie Hicks. "I know they are all mad in there, but he's still alive. I wish my sister was alive, right now. If they were to get help sooner she would still be alive today."

An autopsy report showed that Hicks died of a lethal combination of drugs that included methamphetamine, cocaine and Ecstasy, but the state only presented evidence that the defendant gave Hicks Ecstasy.

Witnesses had testified during the trial that the teens did Ecstasy at a party in Raleigh and then, did cocaine at the defendant's house in Cary, which is where Hicks collapsed. Witnesses also testified that one teen called 911 and that the defendant told the operator that the call was a mistake. He later sought help from a neighbor, who called 911.

Defense attorneys argued during the trial that Hicks' was a habitual drug user, that there were several drugs in Hicks' body when she died and that there was no way to determine which one actually killed her. Witnesses also testified that Hicks' mother, at one point, had allegedly shared marijuana and the prescription drug Xanax with her daughter and friends, including the defendant.

But prosecutors said the case is simply about the law.

"People need to know this law is out there," said prosecutor Melanie Shekita after the verdict was read. "People who distribute drugs need to know they can be prosecuted for that. It shouldn't be about the victim's drug use. Every person in North Carolina is entitled to equal protection of the law."

A disposition hearing is scheduled for Friday to determine the defendant's sentence. Because he has already spent seven months incarcerated, attorneys said they think the boy will probably be released and ordered to undergo counseling.

The boy's defense attorney, Deb Newton, said although the verdict is disappointing, she hopes her client will be released from the juvenile detention facility and be able to move on with his life.

"He is coming to terms with the judge's ruling, but he's still shocked, right now," Newton said. "Since Erica's death, and even before that, he's been sort of a lost child, and what he needs to do is refocus."