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Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, Published June 29 2012

Police: Man shared drugs with Grand Forks teen who died

GRAND FORKS – Another man has been arrested after Grand Forks police learned of his role in the death of an area teen following an apparent drug overdose.

Wesley Sweeney, 18, of Manvel, N.D., had told an acquaintance that he provided drugs to Christian Bjerk, 18, but it wasn’t his fault Bjerk overdosed, according to police, who has the acquaintance in custody.

On Thursday, Sweeney appeared in state district court in Grand Forks on Class C felony charges of reckless endangerment that each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

He also was charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Though he has not been charged with any role in Bjerk’s death until now, Sweeney has been tied to the death since the morning of June 11, when Bjerk’s body was found on the 400 block of North 51st Street in Grand Forks.

Police found Sweeney nude in a small park a few blocks away. A 15-year-old boy wearing only shorts was found sitting in the grass by the body. Both appeared under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, behaving and speaking in an irrational manner, police reported. Both were taken to Altru Hospital.

Sweeney’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 13. He is in county jail under $100,000 cash or surety bond.

He was arrested Wednesday after an acquaintance, Reed Middleton of Thompson, N.D., was arrested and charged with felony drug possession and two misdemeanors.

Middleton told police he was riding around with Sweeney on June 11 and Sweeney confided in him, according to a police report. Sweeney said that he “should not be charged with a crime for what happened to Bjerk because all he did was provide the drugs, that it was not Sweeney’s fault if Bjerk didn’t know how much to take or took too much of the drug,” the report said.

Bjerk appeared to be the victim of a synthetic drug, law enforcement authorities said.

His official cause of death has not been released publicly, but federal, state and local law enforcement authorities in North Dakota and Minnesota have linked his death with the June 13 death of Elijah Stai, 17, in East Grand Forks, Minn. Both teens allegedly took a white powder thought to have been made recently by Andrew Spofford, 22, of Grand Forks.

Spofford has been charged with drug manufacturing with intent to deliver and reckless endangerment connected to Bjerk’s death and other overdoses.

Adam Budge, 18, East Grand Forks, is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for giving Stai the drugs that killed Stai.

According to police reports, Sweeney provided the white powder to Bjerk and the 15-year-old, identified in court documents as “C.J.,” late June 10 or early June 11

They were at the home of Julie Thorsen at 397 N. 51st St., Grand Forks, but were forced to leave when they became “incoherent, yelling, screaming and making irrational statements,” the reports said.

In a bedroom in the house, police found a white bag containing the white powder witnesses said had been brought in by Sweeney and inhaled by Sweeney, Bjerk and C.J.

Witnesses said Sweeney called the white powder “Ketamine,” the reports said.

Sweeney’s cell phone, also found in the residence, likely contains evidence, in text messages, photos and call logs, of “ongoing criminal activity,” including “the possible source of the controlled substance which caused the overdoses of Sweeney and Bjerk,” according to police reports.


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Stephen J. Lee writes for the Grand Forks Herald