Maria Martinez, an Ocala mother whose daughter died from an overdose of illegal drugs four years ago, feels her payers for justice were answered this week.
Zachary Ian Powers, who sold the drug fentanyl to Martinez’s daughter Gloria Rivera, was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison as part of a plea deal announced Tuesday at a pre-trial conference in front of Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti.
Powers pleaded no contest to charges of manslaughter, possess methamphetamine with intent to sell, possession of fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to court documents.
Powers, currently being held at the Marion County Jail, has more than three years of credit toward his sentence. With his plea, Powers avoided a trial. Documents show he had jury selection scheduled for next week. Powers was represented by local defense lawyer Jack Maro.
In case you missed it:Ocala lawyer accused of sex abuse, child porn
‘April Fools’ sting:Two men charged in online child sex sting resolve cases
Mother’s reaction & a painful discovery
“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh. Thank you lord, justice has been served. I’ve been waiting for this day,” Martinez said by phone on Thursday.
Powers’ arrest and conviction is one of several successful cases where suspected drug dealers have been charged with selling drugs that caused an overdose of death.
Rivera, 39, was discovered unresponsive in a bathroom at her Southwest 29th Place residence on Oct. 2, 2018 by her then 10-year-old daughter. The little girl told her mother’s roommate about her mother’s condition. Finding her face down on the floor, the roommate called 911, police officials said.
When Ocala police officers arrived, they were told that although Rivera had been clean for approximately two months, she had a previous heroin addiction. Syringes and drugs were found inside the house, officers said. The drugs tested positive for heroin and fentanyl.
Taken to a local hospital, Rivera was pronounced dead, officials said.
The police investigation
Rivera’s cellphone was found, and it showed text messages from someone name “Zip,” later identified as Powers. The messages were about drugs, and were sent less than an hour before her death, authorities said.
During their investigation, Zip sent a message to Rivera’s phone about drugs. Officers arranged for a deal at Rivera’s home. When Zip and another man, James Hannigan showed up, they were taken in for questioning.
Powers admitted to selling drugs to Rivera, according to officials. Both Powers and Hannigan were arrested on drug charges.
In early February 2019, Powers was charged with Rivera’s death after detectives found evidence that the drugs sold to Rivera came from Powers
The 32-year-old Ocala man has served time in prison for aggravated assault and weapons offenses, state records show.
How the family’s coping with the loss
Martinez said she’s happy that Powers will be locked up and won’t be able to sell drugs to anyone.
“Maybe its not enough, but its good for me. He’s not going to sell that trash on the streets anymore,” she said.
She said she wants to thank the OPD for “a job well done.”
As for her granddaughter, who found her mother’s body in the bathroom and is now a teenager, Martinez said she’s doing fine.
“She’s Ok thank God,” she said.
Martinez said Rivera’s children are trying to cope with their mother’s death one step at a time.
Contact Austin L. Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or @almillerosb.