Justice for Gaston County Mother: New NC Law Leads to Sentencing in Daughter’s Fentanyl Death

GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) — 16-year-old Abigail Saunderson’s fentanyl poisoning death shocked her loved ones, but a recent development in North Carolina law has led to justice for her family.

Abigail, described as a light by those who knew her, was celebrated after the people responsible for her death were sentenced to prison. Her mother, Tracy Saunderson-Ross, expressed relief after a year-long fight for justice.

A drug dealer, 24-year-old Deontae Miller, was sentenced to at least three years in prison for his role in Abigail’s death, after pleading guilty to death by distribution. Abigail’s boyfriend, 19-year-old Nicholas Ivey, was also sentenced to prison for providing her with the painkiller obtained from Miller.

Changes to North Carolina law mean anyone providing certain drugs leading to a drug death can be prosecuted for second-degree murder, regardless of whether they received money or freely shared the substance. Saunderson-Ross emphasized the need for stricter sentencing for such cases and announced plans to keep her daughter’s memory alive through a foundation, Abi’s Angels Fighting Fentanyl. She aims to assist victims’ families, educate teenagers about illegal drugs, and ensure that schools have access to the overdose-countering drug Narcan for students.

Gaston County District Attorney Travis Page has been working with area law enforcement to treat every overdose as a homicide, believing that the change in the law will lead to more cases being filed and discourage the distribution of fentanyl-laced products in the area.