Cassie Nygren sentenced to 13 years in prison for overdose death, drug charges

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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Cassie Nygren has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for the drug overdose death of a pregnant woman and other drug charges.

Cassie Nygren appears before a judge on drug conspiracy charges. Oct. 15, 2019. (WBAY Photo)

In 2017, Nygren and her ex-boyfriend, Shawn Gray, sold heroin laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl to Jennifer Skeen of Allouez. Skeen was about eight months pregnant.

Nygren, now 31, was convicted of charges in the drug overdose death. In a separate case, she was convicted of a charge related to having illegal items delivered to her while she was in jail.

During a sentencing hearing Thursday, Hon. John Zakowski ordered Nygren to spend 13 years behind bars and 17 years on extended supervision.

The sentencing hearing lasted nearly four hours. Nygren was tearful throughout the testimony and she gave an emotional apology.

"I truly am sorry. I will never stop praying for the healing of Jen's family or their forgiveness towards me," she cried.

She said the faces of Jennifer Skeen and her unborn baby, who would've been named Grace, never leave her mind.

"Your Honor, my addiction to drugs is very real, very powerful and very damaging," she said.

Judge Zakowski, a former prosecutor, called this the saddest case he's seen in 7 or 8 years. Ultimately, he ruled the serious nature of the offense was too great.

"You've had chances up the gazoo, and you've blown it, and you've hurt your family and you've killed people."

Nygren is the daughter of longtime state lawmaker Rep. John Nygren, a Marinette Republican. Her case inspired her father to author a series of bills that have become law to combat opioid addiction in communities.

Judge Zakowski addressed that relationship in court. "You have to know this, Cassie -- you don't have to believe me or not. If your name was Jane Doe, I'd be giving you the same speech and I'd be giving you the same sentence, because I'm sentencing you as a member of this community."

He told her that while she shouldn't lose hope, it's important to remember that Skeen and her baby lost their lives.

"And Cassie, if you screw up again when you get out, you're going to be back in prison, and I don't want that to happen," he said.

Nygren has already spent more than 800 days in jail, which will be credited towards to her 13-year prison sentence.

Skeen was found dead on June 2, 2017, at a home on the 1500-block of S. Webster Ave. in Allouez. A medical examiner found that Skeen's unborn daughter died due to the death of her mother.

Investigators developed Nygren and Gray as suspects. Undercover officers conducted controlled buys, and confidential informants reported deals and attempted deals involving Nygren.

On Oct. 10, 2017, Nygren and Gray were arrested after fleeing from police. Nygren's then 14-month-old child was in the car at the time.

After her arrest, Nygren gave a statement to investigators, which was detailed in a criminal complaint. Nygren says she and Gray sold heroin to Skeen. She said she learned about Skeen's death on her social media "news feed."

Nygren said she believed her supplier's heroin may have been mixed with Fentanyl or Carfentanil because it had been making people sick.

As part of a plea agreement, Nygren pleaded "no contest" and was convicted of the following charges in the Skeen case:

1st Degree Reckless Homicide/Deliver Drugs
Manufacture/Deliver Heroin
Maintain Drug Trafficking Place
Possession of Narcotic Drugs
Resisting or Obstructing an Officer

The following charges were dismissed but read into the record at sentencing:

1st Degree Reckless Homicide - Unborn Child
Neglecting a Child
Possession of a Controlled Substance
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Shawn Gray pleaded guilty to 6 of 14 counts related to the death of Jennifer L. Skeen. Eight of the counts were dismissed but read into the record at sentencing. He was sentenced to 12 years in state prison.

Nygren and Gray's alleged supplier, Dontreace Saulsberry, is charged with two counts of 1st Degree Reckless Homicide and one heroin delivery count. He has a status hearing in his court case next week.

In Oct. 2019, while Nygren was in jail for the Skeen charges, she was charged with Delivering Illegal Articles to Inmate. Prosecutors allege she had arranged for someone on the outside send her mail that contained drugs. Testing for powder on postcards came back positive for amphetamine, according to a criminal complaint.

As part of a plea deal, Nygren pleaded "no contest" to the charge of Delivering Illegal Articles to Inmate. A count of Manufacture/Deliver Amphetamine was dismissed but will be read into the record at sentencing.

Cassie Nygren is the daughter of Marinette State Rep. John Nygren. Rep. Nygren created the HOPE (Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education) Agenda in response to Cassie's public battle with drug addiction.

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