HATBORO >> A Hatboro woman waived a homicide charge in connection with the overdose death of a Willow Grove man to Montgomery County Court at a preliminary hearing Wednesday before District Judge Paul Leo.
Gwendolyn Marie Prebish, 27, of the unit block of Rorer Avenue, was arrested Nov. 7 and charged with drug delivery resulting in death and involuntary manslaughter a day after Michael Pastorino, 32, of the Willow Grove section of Upper Moreland, died of a drug overdose, according to the affidavit.
Officers responded to the 600 block of Fitzwatertown Road at 6:45 p.m. Nov. 6, where they found Pastorino dead, seated in a chair at his desk clutching a syringe in his left hand, the complaint says.
An autopsy by the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office determined the cause of Pastorino’s death was not heroin but was the even deadlier drug fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 40 to 50 times more deadly than street-level heroin, according to a release from the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.
“Too many people are dying, and it’s because of this heroin and fentanyl epidemic,” District Attorney Kevin Steele said in the release. “Addicts do not know that what they are injecting is the much more powerful fentanyl since it looks practically identical to heroin. But when it hits their system, the fentanyl shuts down their body, and they die.”
Testing on the drug bags recovered near Pastorino’s body found that they contained fentanyl, the DA’s office said.
The coroner ruled the death accidental as a result of fentanyl and heroin toxication, the criminal complaint states.
Detectives found text messages on Pastorino’s cellphone indicating he contacted Prebish, his alleged drug dealer, requesting four bags of heroin, and at 2:18 a.m. Nov. 6, Prebish arrived with the drugs for which Pastorino paid $40, according to the complaint.
A controlled drug buy was set up Nov. 7 in Upper Moreland with Prebish at which she sold bags stamped “Ferrari,” the same markings on the bags of suspected heroin possessed by Pastorino at the time of his death, the complaint states.
In an interview following her arrest, Prebish told detectives she met Pastorino in the driveway of his home Nov. 6 and delivered $40 worth of heroin to him, “the same as she possessed on Nov. 7,” the complaint says.
Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen McGlaughlin announced at the hearing that charges of possession with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a small amount of marijuana and related charges against Prebish were being added to the criminal complaint.
McGlaughlin said afterward the additional charges stemmed from the controlled drug buy Nov. 7 at which Prebish was arrested.
Prebish, clad in a red prison suit and jean jacket, sat quietly next to her attorney, Jonathan Sobel, during the brief proceedings Jan. 18 and agreed to waive all the charges against her to county court.
Drug delivery resulting in death is a felony criminal homicide charge that could result in a sentence of up to 40 years — a similar penalty to third-degree murder, the DA’s office said.
Prebish broke down in tears, sobbing on her father’s shoulder, when the judge allowed her parents and two other family members a brief visit with her in the courtroom before she was taken back to Montgomery County Prison, where she is being held on bail previously set by Leo at $1 million.
Michael Pastorino’s fiancée, Chelsey Dovidio, who attended the hearing and stared at Prebish the entire time, said afterward that she and Pastorino, whom she called “the love of my life,” have an 8-year-old daughter.
“She took a lot from me and my daughter,” Dovidio said, adding she felt “relieved” that additional charges were levied against Prebish, an acquaintance whom she graduated with in 2007 from Hatboro-Horsham High School.
Dovidio said Pastorino became addicted to opioids after he was prescribed Percocet two years ago after breaking his wrist. She said she was “aware of his drug problem,” but was “not aware he was as deep into [addiction]” as he was.