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Drug dealer ‘preying on people's addictions’ sentenced for deadly overdose

A judge sentenced Martae Manning to jail and probation for providing a mix of heroin and fentanyl that killed a woman in Plainfield Township in 2019.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Grand Rapids man with a history of drug crimes was sentenced to jail and probation for providing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl that led to the overdose death of a 42-year-old woman in her mother’s basement.

“You’re preying on people’s addictions and weaknesses. And for what? To make a little money,’’ Kent County Circuit Court Judge Mark A. Trusock said.

He sentenced 29-year-old Martae Manning to a year in jail and placed him on probation for delivery of a controlled substance causing death, a potential life offense. Manning also has to pay $2,500 in restitution for the victim’s funeral.

Trusock said he would honor a plea agreement for jail and five years on probation, even though sentencing guidelines called for a minimum prison term of at least 6¾ years.

“I frankly thought long and hard about not honoring that,’’ Trusock said. “But I will at this point in time.’’

Trusock warned Manning that prison remains an option should Manning violate terms of probation over the next five years.

“You’re probably going to go to prison for a very long time,’’ the judge said.

Charges against Manning stem from the overdose death of 42-year-old Nova Barton in December of 2019.

Kent County deputies were called to a home on Sunnyside Street NE in Plainfield Township after a woman found her daughter unresponsive in a basement bedroom. 

Investigators used cellphone records to zero in on Manning as the dealer.

During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, the victim’s mother and daughter told Trusock of the pain they’ve endured because of Manning’s drug dealing.

“Because of your actions, I suffer every day. Because you chose to make money,’’ the victim’s daughter, Zoe Barton, told Manning. “You sold dirty drugs and now I have to live with that.’’

The victim’s mother said May 9, on Mother’s Day, was particularly difficult.

“My daughter can’t call me anymore,’’ Diane Toth said through tears. “And we all know why you sell the drugs. For money.’’

Trusock extended his condolences, and then let Manning have it.

“You have caused an immense amount of pain and sorrow in this family,’’ the judge said. "And for what? For you selling drugs to make a little money. In my opinion, this is no different than you holding a gun to this woman’s head and pulling the trigger.’’

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