CLARION - Clarion Borough Police Chief William H. Peck IV said the Aug. 3 conviction of two men charged in the 2018 drug overdose death of a Clarion man was the result of a lot of cooperation and good police work.
Spencer Gene Rudolph, 24, of Shippenville, and Aaron Ernest Johnson, 32, of Pittsburgh, were both found guilty of felony counts of drug delivery resulting in death, corrupt organizations, conspiracy and criminal use of a communication facility.
Johnson was also found guilty of eight felony counts of manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, a single felony count of conspiracy to manufacture or deliver and a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.
The men will be sentenced later this month.
The charges stemmed from the November 2018 death of William Stout at his Clarion apartment. Stout died from fentanyl toxicity.
The four-day trial included hours of testimony that sometimes left the victim's family emotionally drained.
The jury, which consisted of nine women and three men, took less than two and one-half hours to return their verdicts.
"I have to start with thanking the jury in the case," said Peck a few days after the trial. "It was a long four days of testimony and evidence that was presented, and they followed the evidence that was presented. I thank them for their service."
A 30-year veteran of police work, Peck said the case was unique and unusual having a local police department (Clarion Borough) take the lead on and follow the evidence into three other counties.
"That would not have been possible without the support of Clarion Borough Council," Peck said. "It feels great to work for a community and know the local officials understand the importance of these types of investigations.
"I have to thank the borough officials, and I'm proud to work for this community and to be the chief of police."
Clarion Borough Council members Jason Noto and Ben Aaron Aug. 4 publicly commended Peck, his officers and the other people involved in the case.
"I thank the Clarion Borough police, the other police agencies and the prosecution," Aaron said.
Noto added, "I'm a resident of this community and a father. There's no place in our community for this kind of (drug) activity."
Peck said he appreciates the help of the district attorneys in Elk, Jefferson and Allegheny counties all areas where the investigation spread to.
"Without their cooperation and understanding this case would have been more difficult to present to a jury," said Peck. "Also, the cooperation of other law enforcement agencies was amazing -- I have to start with the Pennsylvania State Police. The Troop C Vice Unit jumped on board from the beginning of this investigation when we realized the evidence was leading outside of the Clarion area.
"They assigned a trooper to the case who worked for two months on this case with the Clarion Borough police."
Peck said the investigation included serving several search warrants and state police provided an overwhelming amount of support during those processes.
"I also want to thank the City of St. Marys Police Department, Ridgway Borough Police, and the Monroeville Police Department," said Peck.
Peck, who also works as Clarion County's chief detective for the district attorney's office, added, "I also want to give a big thank you to Clarion County District Attorney Drew Welsh and his staff.
"Mr. Welsh could not have presented the evidence to the jury any better. It was a very complex case, and he was able to present the evidence in a manner to the jury that they could understand."
Peck said Welsh spent "countless hours" preparing this case.
In the end, though, Peck's thoughts turned to the victim's family and the community as a whole.
"I hope this verdict gives the family some sort of understanding of what happened," said Peck. "I know it wasn't easy for them to sit through some of the evidence that was presented. I hope it helps them to have an understanding on what happened in this investigation."
Peck concluded, "I also hope this tragedy sends a message to drug dealers who sell these types of poison to other people. Clarion County law enforcement will work together to hold you accountable for your actions."