7 years for murder. MURDER. Likely 3 1/2 if he can behave in the pokey.

Cloquet man gets 7 years in fatal overdose of daughter’s friend
By Tom Olsen on Dec 23, 2015 at 7:01 p.m.

CARLTON — Jill Loonsfoot held up a photograph of her brother and nephew Wednesday in a Carlton County courtroom, showing a judge how happy the father and son were at Christmas two years ago.ferguson_5_1

It’s the last photo she has of the two together. Her brother, Paul Duane Mrosla, overdosed on a prescription painkiller patch just weeks later.

Sitting just feet away from Loonsfoot during the emotional moment was Robert Todd Ferguson, the Cloquet man convicted of providing the fatal dose of Fentanyl to her brother.
“I go on several overdose calls a week, and it breaks my heart every time,” Loonsfoot, a Minneapolis police officer, told the court. “It’s time we have the suppliers and dealers held responsible.”

Sixth Judicial District Judge Leslie Beiers agreed with her sentiments. She sentenced Ferguson to more than seven years in prison after hearing poignant testimony from several family members.

A Carlton County jury in November found Ferguson guilty of third-degree murder in Mrosla’s death. The case presented a rare example of an alleged drug supplier being prosecuted for an overdose death, as authorities in the Northland seek to crack down on what they describe as a growing trend of dangerous substance abuse.

Ferguson did not display any apparent emotion during most of the hourlong hearing, but did apologize to the Mrosla family for their loss.

“Please know that I’m sincere when I say that I’m sorry for the loss of your son,” Ferguson told Mrosla’s parents immediately before receiving his sentence. “May the Lord be with you in your time of sorrow.”

The 86-month sentence handed down by Beiers is in accordance with sentencing guidelines and the recommendations of a probation officer.

The Carlton County Attorney’s Office sought 103 months, while defense attorneys argued for a probationary sentence.

Ferguson, 52, had no criminal history prior to the murder conviction.

Authorities contended that Ferguson provided the potent, Schedule II drug to 25-year-old Mrosla at Ferguson’s residence on Jan. 15, 2014. Mrosla was a friend of his daughter, Charity Ferguson.

Several people testified at trial that Mrosla began having a bad reaction to the drug. He was loaded into a car and driven by Charity Ferguson to his parents’ Carlton home, where he died of an overdose in the driveway.

Mrosla’s parents questioned at Wednesday’s hearing why help was not rendered to their son.

“No one called 911 to get help for Paul,” Nancy Mrosla said. “They had no concern for Paul. The only concern was to help Bob Ferguson.”

Ferguson disputed the charge at trial, claiming that it was his daughter who supplied the drug to her friend Mrosla.

Ferguson testified at the time that he had been using Fentanyl since 1998 to alleviate chronic pain brought on by multiple car accidents.

Defense attorney Joanna Wiegert asserted that Mrosla was a willing buyer and initiated the sale. She argued that there was an “equity” issue in the case, with Charity Ferguson receiving immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for her willingness to testify against her father.

“The person who set up the deal walked away with a pat on the back and a ‘thank you’ from law enforcement and prosecutors in this county,” Wiegert told the judge.

Wiegert noted that more than a dozen friends and family members submitted written letters of support to the court, arguing that Ferguson would be suitable for probation. She also said his ongoing health issues make him vulnerable in a prison setting.

Carlton County prosecutor Jeffrey Boucher contended that Ferguson had failed to accept responsibility and was seeking to shift the blame for Mrosla’s death.

“Mr. Ferguson was the source of the drugs and the recipient of the money,” Boucher argued.

Mrosla, a 2007 graduate of Carlton High School, left behind a son who was 4 at the time of his death.

Family members described the struggle of watching the child grow up without his father.

“They loved each other so much,” said Kirsten Brokaw, the boy’s mother. “They were inseparable.”

Beiers ordered a 10-minute recess before rendering her decision. When she returned, she made it clear that no sentence would satisfy the family’s loss.

The judge said there were a number of mitigating factors in the case, including Ferguson’s lack of criminal history, health issues and his cooperation with the legal process.

However, Beiers said she could not grant a departure from guidelines.

“Paul’s struggles with drugs and addiction made him an even more vulnerable victim in this case,” she noted.

The judge also pointed to Ferguson’s lack of response when Mrosla began reacting to the drug.

“Had there been a different response — had you called 911 — we may not be here today,” Beiers said. “Clearly you’re remorseful, but I again didn’t hear any remorse for your role in this case. Just sadness for this happening.”

Leave a Reply