PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man was sentenced Tuesday to 12½ years in prison for drug homicide accomplice and witness tampering after he entered an Alford plea in the April 30, 2020, death of a 33-year-old Port Angeles man whose sister helped procure the fentanyl-lace drugs that killed him.
Clallam County Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson imposed the punishment Tuesday on Nathan W. Terry, 32, resolving three cases against him.
Terry entered Alford pleas Tuesday on controlled substance homicide-accomplice and tampering with a witness charges, maintaining his innocence in connection with the death of Chad Eugene Johnson, 33.
In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, only that a jury would likely find them guilty.
A charge of unlawful possession of a firearm was dismissed.
Terry also pleaded guilty in a third case involving one count of delivery of heroin and one count each of delivery of heroin and methamphetamine, both the same day and with special allegations they occurred within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of a school. In the same case, he pleaded guilty to a charge of delivery of heroin on a different day.
Terry’s criminal history includes three juvenile and 11 adult felonies.
In the tampering charge, the witness Terry tried to sway in connection with Chad Johnson’s death was Johnson’s sister, Melissa K. Johnson, 37, of Port Angeles.
At first charged with controlled substance homicide-accomplice in her brother’s death, she pleaded guilty to third-degree assault-criminal negligence.
Johnson was sentenced June 2 to 12 months community custody and must undergo a substance abuse evaluation. Terry had been scheduled for trial June 14.
She negotiated the plea in exchange for agreeing to testify against Terry for his role in her brother’s death and for her testimony against him for pressuring her to retract her account of that role.
“Obviously, this is a tragic loss, especially given how close the third party was, the sibling of Mr. Johnson,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Snipe said at the sentencing hearing.
“That’s going to haunt that person forever,” he said.
“This was definitely a small-town tragedy,” Snipe said later Tuesday.
“Hopefully, the sentence today is a small step forward in making people accountable.”
Chad Johnson’s girlfriend found him lying on his back dead, on the floor next to their mattress, shortly before 7 a.m. April 30, 2020, at his parents’ East Ninth Street home, according to the probable cause statement.
Johnson died of “acute intoxication by the combined effects of methamphetamine, fentanyl and opiates,” according to an autopsy that ruled his death accidental.
Johnson’s girlfriend told officers Johnson “had a history of using heroin but she thought he had been clean for some amount of time,” according to the statement.
According to his Facebook messenger exchanges, Johnson was buying methamphetamine and heroin in amounts of $4 to $15 during April 2020, with his primary source his sister, who was staying in the same hotel room as Terry at the Holiday Lodge in Port Angeles.
On April 29 at 6:13 p.m., Johnson messaged her that his most recent drug buy “was 70 percent garbage.”
At 6:18 p.m., she messaged Johnson that she had a new “point,” or 0.1 grams, to give him.
“Can I come by or?” he tells his sister at 6:47 p.m.
“Yes,” she immediately responds.
“The above was Chad Johnson’s last message in regards to drugs,” according to the probable cause statement.
“The next morning at 0641 hours, Port Angeles PD officers responded to [his parents’ address] on a report of a male unconscious and not breathing,” it said.
They were Johnson’s last phone activities.
A week after Johnson’s death, Melissa Johnson told sheriff’s Detective Jeff Pickrell that she obtained the drugs from Terry. Johnson said after her brother died, Terry deleted everything on her phone.
Terry’s phone was confiscated after two controlled buys.
“I discovered numerous text messages on multiple occasions related to the purchase and sale of drugs by Nathan Terry,” Pickrell said.
Amended information against Terry charging him with tampering with a witness was filed June 9.
After Terry and Johnson were charged in Chad Johnson’s death, Melissa Johnson said she was contacted by Elisha Stark, who said she was Terry’s wife, Johnson told Pickrell.
Stark told her “Nathan was trying to change his life and she should tell police she had a mix-up about what she said to police,” Johnson said.
Elisha O. Stark, 31, of Port Angeles said she had messaged Melissa Johnson when she was intoxicated, according to a probable cause statement.
Stark said she was contacted by a man Terry had spent time with in jail who said Terry wanted her to contact Johnson to “get Melissa to change her story.”
Stark pleaded not guilty July 2 to tampering with a witness. A status hearing is Aug. 19.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].