WHEATON – The deadly overdose of a Wheaton woman is at the center of DuPage County's second-ever drug-induced homicide prosecution, which began Thursday morning with the case's opening arguments.
Jennifer Nere, 34, of Summit, received the charge, as well as one count of unlawful delivery, after 32-year-old Augustina Taylor was found unresponsive in the early hours of June 28, 2012, in her apartment bathroom.
Prosecutors allege Nere gave Taylor the doses of heroin and crack cocaine that led to her death, as well as a syringe, pipe and drug spoon. Taylor's is among many heroin-related overdose deaths the county has seen in recent years, prompting public outcry and action by local officials.
Taylor had been celebrating her release from prison on a prostitution charge the day prior, said prosecutor Jae Kwon.
"Tina had her demons," he said in his opening statements. "Tina was a drug addict and she struggled with that part of her life."
Kwon said Taylor called Nere to pick up a friend and arranged for Nere to deliver drugs because she "needed her fix."
Taylor allegedly met with Nere, received the drugs, then went into the bathroom. Several hours later, her family found her unresponsive, removed the doorknob and discovered her leaning against the door, blocking entry.
Wheaton police officer Jim Craig testified that, upon his arrival at the scene, he broke down the door and removed Taylor, and he and three other officers began CPR until paramedics arrived.
Matthew Burns, one of the paramedics on the scene, said there was no heartbeat by the time he and his partner reached the home, and emergency lifesaving techniques proved ineffective.
Taylor was taken to Central DuPage Hospital and pronounced dead.
Forensic evidence revealed Nere's blood on a sock in the bathroom containing a baggie with white residue and two "bindles" that previously contained heroin, Craig said.
Prosecutors allege Nere came to the Wheaton Police Department within a few days of Taylor's death and confessed to delivering the drugs. Kwon said that in the recorded event, the defendant said she "didn't deliver 'bad drugs'" to Taylor and that she "didn't mean to kill her."
Nere had been serving time in Cook County Jail for unrelated charges since Aug. 24, 2013, before being released into the custody of DuPage County authorities Sept. 23. She was issued a $300,000 bond the next day and did not post bail, said DuPage County State's Attorney's Office spokesman Paul Darrah.
During the time of the alleged confession, Nere's lawyer, David Gaughan, said his client was on "so much cocaine and so much heroin that she was out of her mind."
Gaughan said he hoped to show Taylor and her friend were doing drugs during the course of the day before her death. He also said much of the prosecution's evidence relied on the testimony of other drug addicts who would "prostitute themselves on Mannheim Road and do anything possible" to get drugs.
"Unfortunately, over the next several days, you're going to hear about a hell that is far too common for families these days," he said.
Judge Daniel P. Guerin and a panel of jurors will hear the case in the coming days, Darrah said. The drug-induced homicide charge – the county's first juried case – was made possible by 2011 legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly.