‘This case is over:’ Man found not guilty in girlfriend’s fatal overdose in York County
Robert “Bobby” Martin III, 28, of Perry Hall, Maryland, was acquitted on Friday of drug delivery resulting in death and involuntary manslaughter.
Robert “Bobby” Martin III turned away from the jury. Then, he collapsed at the defense table inside the York County Judicial Center.
Next, he stood up, walked to the center of the courtroom and jumped into the open arms of his mother.
Martin, 28, of Perry Hall, Maryland, was found not guilty on Friday of drug delivery resulting in death and involuntary manslaughter. He had been accused of setting up a drug deal for his girlfriend, Bryanna Shanahan, who believed that she needed to test positive to get into detox and rehab, as well as accompanying her to and providing her money for the transaction near Baltimore on Dec. 15, 2015.
Shanahan was found dead the next day at her home in Stewartstown. She was 25.
“This case is over,” Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder said. “Costs on the county.”
The jury deliberated for less than one hour. It’s the first time that prosecutors in York County have lost a case involving drug delivery resulting in death since the law was changed in 2011.
The New York Times had referenced the case in a story that examined how prosecutors across the United States are charging friends, partners and family members under laws that were designed to go after drug dealers.
Prosecutors called five witnesses during the trial.
Denise Shanahan, Bryanna Shanahan’s mother, testified that one of her grandsons walked upstairs to check on her daughter at their home on Dec. 16, 2015.
“He came down, and he said that she was dead,” Denise Shanahan said. “I didn’t understand.”
She tried to perform CPR. But it was too late.
Bryanna Shanahan had been clean for more than one year but relapsed. She was looking to enter treatment, according to testimony, and told her mother that she needed to find something to test positive to get in.
Metabolites of heroin and fentanyl and a prescription antidepressant were found in her system, said Dr. Rameen Starling-Roney, a forensic pathologist. He testified that the cause of death was mixed substance toxicity.
Law enforcement obtained numerous text messages between the couple about getting drugs.
Martin was saved in her phone as “My Heart.” Some text messages appeared to show a strain in their relationship, but the two had discussed getting married. He had even bought her an engagement ring.
Southern Regional Police Detective Richard Blais II, the lead investigator, testified that he later interviewed Martin at a McDonald’s in Towson, Maryland. His story changed several times.
Eventually, Martin told investigators that a contact gave him a phone number to call. The couple went to a parking lot of a Pizza Hut near Baltimore. Bryanna Shanahan, he reported, got into a car with two men and bought drugs while he waited in the passenger seat, Blais testified.
Martin told law enforcement that she then used some of the drugs and got into a car accident. She left his home later that evening to drive back to Pennsylvania.
“The defendant was not just simply present when the drug deal happened in Maryland,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jared Mellott said in his closing argument. “Instead, the defendant was an indispensable, absolutely pivotal part of the drug deal that took the life of Bryanna Shanahan.”
But jurors did not agree.
R. Davis Younts, Martin’s attorney, called two witnesses.
First, Cathy Stamerro, Martin’s mother, testified that her son became addicted to prescription medication after undergoing several surgeries for an injury that he suffered playing baseball.
Later, someone who was driving the wrong way ran him off the road. Martin crashed into a tree and suffered a broken pelvis. He had to undergo surgery, which “created a great, big problem again,” Stamerro testified.
Dr. William Cox, an expert in forensic and neuropathology, testified that there was no evidence, to a reasonable degree of medical certainly, that Bryanna Shanahan took heroin or that it was responsible for her death.
Instead, he said, the combination of fentanyl and the antidepressant led to her death.
Younts questioned whether Bryanna Shanahan could’ve obtained drugs from another source before she got home. He noted that she’d been using different drugs with other people in the days prior to her death.
He castigated law enforcement for neither interviewing three potential witnesses, testing several pieces of evidence nor retrieving location data for her phone. Prosecutors, he said, gave jurors 72 puzzle pieces in the form of exhibits, a pair of scissors and a piece of tape and asked them to figure it out.
Martin was addicted to drugs and had been planning to go to rehab. Younts suggested that his client was an easy target.
“There’s a young girl that tragically died, and they want to hold someone accountable,” Younts said in his closing argument. “They were going to go after Bobby Martin.”
Reactions to the verdict:
Outside the courtroom, Robert “Bobby” Martin III said he was still processing the verdict and wanted to spend time with his family.
R. Davis Younts, Martin’s attorney, declined to be interviewed.
Denise Shanahan, Bryanna Shanahan’s mother, said she was disappointed in the outcome.
“I just feel like he should be held accountable in some way,” Denise Shanahan said. “We did our best.”
She praised Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jared Mellott.
Mellott said he was also disappointed with the outcome. He noted that the case was different. Martin, he said, was further removed from the actual drug deal.
“I definitely believe there was enough to convict,” Mellott said. “I can certainly respect the jury’s decision to the contrary.”