JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The News4Jax I-TEAM has learned hundreds of charges have been dropped during an investigation into the death of a 16-year-old who investigators say died after smoking a synthetic drug.
Three people arrested after the 2015 death of Matthew Purdy have taken plea agreements and are awaiting their sentences. Gregory Burris, Lauri Burris and Ronald Brown Jr. each face up to five years in prison if convicted of selling cannabinoids out of Smoker's Video.
Gregory and Lauri Burris owned Smoker's Video and Brown Jr. was the manager. They were facing hundreds of charges, but all three have had their charges reduced to only one. Gregory Burris and Brown Jr. are charged with racketeering. Lauri Burris was charged with selling a misbranded drug.
Brown Jr. was facing a manslaughter charge in Purdy's death, which was dropped. Investigators said the teenager died after taking a drug known as Sunshine, which he told police came from Smoker's Video.
News4Jax in 2016 spoke to Purdy's mother, Brenda, after she learned the store owners, manager and several others were arrested after several of the stores were raided.
"I was relieved they made an arrest and just the though of having all those drugs off the street. No one else's child and parent should have to go through this," she told News4Jax after the raids.
After four years, most of the cases were closed and the majority of people charged took plea deals. Prosecutors sentenced the manufacturer, Mark Dickinson, to 13 years in prison.
Brown Jr., and Gregory and Lauri Burris took a plea deal after the state didn't have enough evidence to prove the manslaughter charge. Brown Jr.'s attorney, Mitch Stone, told the I-TEAM there wasn't a credible witness, Purdy's cause of death is still debatable and at the time synthetic cannabinoids could be sold legally.
Nick Cox, a statewide prosecutor with the Attorney General's Office, sent the I-TEAM a statement that reads:
"The Office of Statewide Prosecution secured a 13-year prison sentence for the manufacturer of the synthetic drugs, and OSP continues to seek prison time for each of three remaining defendants."
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in August, but that could change.
Purdy's mother told News4Jax on Tuesday that she's been to every court hearing over the past three years. She said she's trying to stay positive, saying the laws have changed and the drugs are now illegal, however, she doesn't feel justice has been served for her son.