A man who shared cocaine with a 15-year-old Lower Sackville girl a few hours before she committed suicide has been sentenced to two years in prison.
Adam Ray Greenlaw, 37, of Digby pleaded guilty in November to a charge of trafficking cocaine.
Greenlaw lived in Dartmouth when he committed the offence in June 2017.
He was sentenced this week in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax by Justice James Chipman, who accepted the Crown’s recommendation.
“This is a sad and tragic case,” Chipman said. “Mr. Greenlaw participated in the trafficking of cocaine with deadly consequences.”
The court heard that Greenlaw’s involvement with Nicole Burkett came to light when her mother and one of her friends looked at the contents of her cellphone in an attempt to understand why she had killed herself on the morning of June 25, 2017.
Evidence in apartment
They informed police that Nicole had been in contact with a man named Adam for a period of time and had been with him the night before she died.
Police analyzed the phone and determined Nicole had been communicating with the man through social media and texts since June 16.
On Nicole’s SnapChat account, there were two photos showing lines of white powder on a wood table, taken June 25 at 1:05 a.m. and 2:19 a.m., and a video of the teen snorting two lines of white powder, recorded June 25 at 5:48 a.m.
Police obtained a warrant and searched Greenlaw’s apartment on Highfield Park Drive on the evening of June 30. They located the table Nicole had snorted the powder from and seized 25 grams of marijuana, digital scales and other drug paraphernalia.
According to the facts, Greenlaw shared cocaine with Nicole through the night. They parted ways at about 8:55 a.m. when he dropped her off at the residence of one of his friends, who was going to provide her with magic mushrooms.
His next communication with Nicole was when she advised him she was going to commit suicide. He tried to dissuade her, the court was told.
‘Losing a child is too hard to come back from’
In a victim impact statement, Barbie Burkert spoke of the pain she has experienced since the death of her daughter.
“The sadness and loss is so debilitating and so overwhelming,” she told the court.
“I feel so robbed of my daughter and the life that is gone too soon. To look into the eyes of her brother and sister and see their pain is another pain no mother wants to see.
“Losing a child is too hard to come back from. Most days you just want to go join them because you can’t bear to be without them.”
The judge thanked the mother for her courage.
A presentence report said Greenlaw, who is single and has a 13-year-old son, was addicted to drugs at the time of the offence but has been clean and sober for more than 18 months.
Defence lawyer Trevor McGuigan asked for probation, saying the determination of a proportionate sentence requires an analysis of the gravity of the offence and the degree of moral blameworthiness of his client.
“A trafficker peddling to clients for profit – even those doing so to support a habit – is not the same as a user sharing with another user,” McGuigan said.
“There are devastating facts as part of this case. Ms. Burkert was only 15 years old and sadly took her own life after spending time with Mr. Greenlaw. He will have to live with that forever and wrestle with how his brief time with her may have affected her or contributed to mental health issues that she was experiencing. However, he is not being sentenced for causing or contributing to her tragic death.”
Knowingly trafficked to minor
The judge said the circumstances of the case required a sentence that sends a strong message of denunciation and deterrence.
“Mr. Greenlaw knowingly trafficked cocaine to a minor,” Chipman said. “(He) was not recruited or pressured to sell cocaine. Rather, he made a deliberate choice in this case to give the cocaine to a 15-year-old girl.
“It is agreed by the parties that Mr. Greenlaw shared approximately one gram of cocaine with Nicole Burkert. He did this knowing that she was a minor. Hard drugs were given to a young and vulnerable female. I regard this offence as extremely serious and Mr. Greenlaw has a high degree of moral culpability.
“This case is surely testament to the statement that trafficking in … drugs such as cocaine is not a victimless crime.”
In addition to the prison term, the judge imposed a firearms prohibition and ordered Greenlaw to provide a DNA sample for a national databank.
The Crown offered no evidence on a charge of possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, so that count was dismissed.
If you or someone you know needs immediate mental health help, go to the nearest hospital, call 911, or call the Nova Scotia crisis line: