Rock Island Co. judge gives woman minimum sentence after giving husband fatal dose of heroin

ROCK ISLAND-- A young woman was sentenced to the minimum time behind bars after police say she delivered a deadly dose of heroin to her husband.

25-year-old Kayla Kundert was charged back in February with Drug Induced Homicide for giving her husband Manuel Rico heroin laced with fentanyl, a charge Moline detectives rarely see. She could have faced 60 years in prison. But the charge was reduced to Delivering a Controlled Substance, that charge has a maximum of 15 years.

On Wednesday a Rock Island County judge struggled with delivering a sentence, but he says any more time would have kept other addicts from getting help.

Before Kundert heard the judge's decision, she had to face the family of Manuel Rico. She provided the drugs the night he overdosed and died in a Moline motel.

"My son chose to do the drug with you, yeah. But he didn't choose to die. Kayla Kundert had the opportunity to save my son's life in the hotel room. There were three phones in that room; her phone my sons phone and the hotel phone. But she chose not to do anything," read Rico's mom Lisa Zeppuhar as she sat in front of the courtroom.

Kundert had something to say too.

"I do want everyone to know that I never meant for any of this to happen. I would never intentionally ever harm Manny. All I wanted was to make him happy," pleaded Kundert.

Before the judge delivered the sentence, he had to look at both sides and decide what message to send.

Prosecutors say people delivering drugs should be held accountable. Kundert's defense says too harsh a sentence keeps people from getting help, making them more worried about getting in trouble.

Veteran judge Frank Fuhr did not take this decision lightly.

"This is a terrible case. There's nothing I can do to fix this mess. Both of you made terrible decisions," says Fuhr.

Kundert was sentenced to four years behind bars, a minimum sentence, when originally, it could have been 60.

"If you were a drug dealer, you would get the maximum. But you're not. You're a drug user and an addict. So I think it's appropriate to give you the minimum," says Fuhr.

"Four years? That doesn't cut it. This is no message to our community, not at all. I'm very ashamed of our justice system," says Zeppuhar.

But in the end, justice sees past who gave what to who.

"If you send someone for the maximum, the message you're sending is if you see a friend or loved one overdosing, you should run. Otherwise, you'll go to prison. He's saying I want these people to live. I don’t want them thinking about, am I going to prison," says defense attorney Dan Dalton.

But for this mom, no message brings back her son.

"I guess our true grieving process begins now. The true grieving starts today," says Zeppuhar.

Related stories:

Trial date set for woman who police say delivered deadly dose of heroin to a Moline man

“You’re going to be held accountable”: Moline Police have a strong message for drug dealers