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Closter Drug Death Defendant Charged With Heroin, Weapon

Jesse Kurzweil, Sara Jones
Jesse Kurzweil, Sara Jones Photo Credit: MUGSHOTS: Courtesy PALISADES INTERSTATE PARKWAY PD

CLOSTER, N.J. -- A borough man charged in the heroin-induced overdose death of an Emerson woman was arrested after he and a woman were found parked overnight at the Alpine Lookout on the Palisades with four dozen folds of heroin and a collapsible police baton, authorities said.

Jesse Kurzweil, 28, was indicted last year along with 29-year-old Christopher Benvenuto of Old Tappan on charges of "strict liability for a drug-induced death" after prosecutors said they supplied Doreen Leach, 47, with the heroin that killed her on June 11, 2013.

Kurzweil also was indicted in late July on cocaine and methylone possession charges out of Hackensack and Fair Lawn in March 2014.

That arrest came while he was free on $150,000 bail, posted two days after Molinelli said detectives arrested him in the parking lot of the Paramus Park Mall while carrying several bags from the same batch that killed Leach.

This time, PIP Police Officer Joseph Villone was conducting a routine check at 1:10 a.m. Aug. 1 when he found the couple's unoccupied, improperly parked 2013 Dodge Dart, Police Chief Michael Coppola said.

Inside he spotted two syringes and some folds, the chief said.

Backup Officer Martin Clancy arrived as Kurzweil showed up with 24-year-old Sara Jones, also of Closter, he said.

Both of them "claimed ownership of the drugs and were then placed under arrest," Coppola said.

Jones was carrying 48 decks of heroin and a consented search of her car turned up five more, along with the baton, which Kurzweil said was his, the chief said.

She was being held on $21,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail.

Kurzweil was being held on $13,500 bail.

Both are charged with possession of heroin and the syringes. Jones also was charged with possession with the intent to distribute it, while Kurzweil was charged with weapons possession.

In the overdose case, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said he’s applying a decades-old law that allows authorities to hold drug suppliers criminally liable when a user dies in the hopes of sending a clear message to street-level dealers that they could face long prison terms no matter how small the amounts they sell.

The prosecutor vowed that his investigators would trace every deadly overdose in the county back to “everyone” in the chain — from the manufacturer to someone who helps a heroin user snort or shoot up the drug.

Kurzweil and Benvenuto are charged with first-degree strict liability for a heroin-induced death, manslaughter, hindering and drug possession offenses, among other counts.

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