Olivia, Minnesota, man sentenced to 60 months in woman's 2021 fentanyl overdose death
Bradley James Westphal, 38, of Olivia, was sentenced to 60 months of prison Tuesday in Renville County District Court. Westphal pleaded guilty to a third-degree murder charge in the overdose death of Connie Havens on July 19, 2021.
OLIVIA — Nearly two years after a woman's fentanyl overdose death at an Olivia home, a Renville County prosecutor had one word to sum up the feeling in the Olivia courtroom Tuesday after six family members of the victim gave their statements to the court: "hollow."
Bradley James Westphal, 38, of Olivia, was sentenced this week in Renville County District Court to 60 months of prison with 31 days credit after he pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in February of 2023. Westphal was charged with murder in December of 2021 in the overdose death of Connie Havens in July of 2021.
Havens is not listed in official court documents. Her daughter, Shawnee Marie Pugh-Havens, revealed Havens’ identity in a 2021 interview with the West Central Tribune.
According to the criminal complaint, Westphal provided the pills that he and Havens snorted in the bathroom of his Olivia residence. A witness said Havens was there to obtain Percocet, the brand name for an oxycodone and acetaminophen combination used to relieve severe pain, according to Mayo Clinic.
According to the autopsy results, Havens died from the effects of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Percocet was not found in the toxicology report, according to court documents.
After snorting the pill, Havens sat on a couch for 15 to 20 minutes before she started to fall asleep and gasp for air, according to a 19-year-old woman mentioned in the complaint who also was at Westphal's home.
According to the complaint, Westphal initially refused to call 911 and instead began removing drugs and drug paraphernalia from his home. The complaint states a review of his call logs revealed Westphal had sent messages and made phone calls to other individuals to inform them about the incident before he called 911.
Per the plea agreement, prosecutors and Westphal's attorney jointly agreed to a 50- to 60-month sentence, a "mitigated or downward durational departure," a term that means less prison time than the presumptive guideline sentence, which is 86 months in this case.
Judge Laurence Stratton noted that Westphal had indicated he didn't know the pills he had given Havens were laced with fentanyl.
Other reasons given for the mitigated sentence include the fact that Westphal had accepted responsibility, to prevent trauma to a witness from testifying and the fact that Havens' family had agreed to the departure, according to the departure report filed by Stratton.
Before the sentence was ordered, six from Havens' family had prepared statements for the court.
Wearing a black T-shirt with blue script and white angel wings on the back to memorialize her mother, Shawnee Pugh-Havens said, "Ever since July 19, 2021, I changed."
Pugh-Havens said that she mourns a life that should have been. "My mom will never see my accomplish my goals. ... Two years have passed and I still look for her, still try to call her."
She said the relationship she had with her mother wasn't perfect, "but now I will never be able to smooth out the edges," she said.
Pugh-Havens noted the agreed upon 50- to 60-month sentence for Westphal before stating that her mother "got the death penalty."
"A phone call could have prevented this," said another emotional family member. While giving her statement, she looked directly at Westphal from the prosecutor's table. She said she believed Westphal had shown little remorse for his actions, "you already have it better. You get to live and you asked for time off of your sentence."
In his statement to the court, Westphal apologized in a calm and collected manner. "I wish I could go back in time, but I can't," he said.
Westphal's attorney noted he and his client hope the sentence serves as an example to others and to Westphal's son, so as to learn from the mistakes Westphal had made up to the date of July 19, 2021.
While attorneys on both sides of the courtroom mentioned all parties involved in the case were victims of an opioid crisis, prosecutors asked for the full 60 months, the lengthiest sentence within the agreed-upon terms.
Stratton agreed saying given the facts of the case there was "no reason" not to impose the 60-month prison sentence.
In a statement to the West Central Tribune, Renville County Attorney Kelsie Kingstrom said, "Cases like this are never easy, and they are difficult from many angles. But the investigation, prosecution and the persistence of the deceased's loved ones makes it worth it. Ms. Connie Havens has ten wonderful children that will no doubt carry on her memory, and on behalf of the entire Renville County team, we are gravely sorry for their loss."
Westphal is currently incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud. Under Minnesota law, Westphal must serve two-thirds of his sentence in custody before being eligible for supervised release.
According to the Minnesota Department of Corrections, Westphal's expected release date from prison is Aug. 24, 2026.