By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“I feel terrible about everything that happened. Words can’t describe how apologetic I am to his family and all his friends,” David Allen Clampett Zavodny of Port Angeles told the court after his sentencing.
Zavodny was arrested in connection with the May 14 death of Maceo Niehaus, 17, also of Port Angeles, at a home in the 700 block of South Ennis Street and initially charged with controlled substance homicide after Niehaus’ death was confirmed as a heroin overdose.
Zavodny pleaded guilty March 20 under a plea agreement to two counts of delivery of a controlled substance — heroin and methamphetamine — and one count each of maintaining premises for drug trafficking and possession of heroin, all felony drug charges.
The agreement dropped the controlled substance homicide charge.
Superior Court Judge George Wood sentenced Zavodny on Thursday after the agreement was reached between Karen Unger, Zavodny’s retained defense attorney, and Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Paul Conroy.
Zavodny is set to serve 20 months in prison and undergo an inmate drug treatment program, Unger explained.
After 20 months, Zavodny will be released to continue the treatment program under state Department of Corrections supervision, Wood said.
If Zavodny fails in his treatment, he will return to prison to serve the remaining 20 months, Wood said.
“If the death of your friend is not motivation enough, then I don’t know what will be,” Wood said.
Ricki Niehaus, Maceo Niehaus’ grandmother, said Thursday she did not know Zavodny’s sentencing had been set for Thursday.
“I just hope it works for him,” she said when told of Zavodny’s guilty plea and sentence.
“It won’t bring Maceo back, but maybe it will save him.”
Zavodny’s grandmother and uncle declined to comment on the case when reached at the grandmother’s Port Angeles home Thursday.
Conroy said the charges and sentence were agreed upon after discussions with law enforcement, Unger and Niehaus’ mother.
“This was a tough case for the state, a difficult case for the defense, but I think [the plea agreement] a reasonable resolution to the case given the facts and circumstances,” Conroy said.
Unger said she felt that the case was initially overcharged.
“I don’t believe my client is guilty of controlled substance homicide,” Unger said.
“This is an extraordinarily tragic situation.”
Unger said Niehaus was a close friend of Zavodny’s and that both suffered from drug addiction.
“If Mr. Zavodny doesn’t change his way and learn from this, he’s going to be the next funeral we’ll be attending,” Unger said.
“Hopefully, this will make a dent in Mr. Zavodny’s addiction to drugs, and he will do what he needs to do to stay free of drugs for the rest of his life as a testament to his friend,” she added.
According to Port Angeles police accounts, Niehaus stopped breathing after he injected himself with heroin Zavodny had reportedly given him at the 19-year-old’s residence.
Zavodny reportedly applied ice and cold water to Niehaus in an attempt to revive him, calling 9-1-1 between 40 and 45 minutes after Niehaus stopped breathing.
Ricki Niehaus said she still has a “big empty hole” in her heart nine months after her grandson’s death.
“We had a special relationship between the two of us,” she said Thursday.
“To bring his name up is real painful.”
More than 300 friends and family attended Niehaus’ May 23 funeral, where he was remembered as big-hearted, outgoing and competitive.
She said her grandson’s death has also taken a huge toll on his friends, some of whom also struggle with drug addiction.
“His grave is always covered with something they’ve brought,” she said, referring to trinkets, toys and messages left behind by friends.
She said she hopes every day that her grandson’s friends learn from his mistakes so that he did not die in vain.
“As long as someone has learned from his lesson, then it’s got to be a blessing; then it is a blessing,” she said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.