LEBANON, Ohio — The first man convicted of drug-related involuntary manslaughter in Warren County was ordered released from prison this week, five years before his sentence was set to expire.
In January 2015, Ryan Patrick died of a fatal overdose after taking cocaine and fentanyl provided to him by his friend, Austin Wells. A year later, Wells was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said he hoped the conviction and sentence sent a message to other drug dealers "that they will be held responsible for the damage caused by the poison they are sending out into our community," he said in 2016.
Now, halfway through Wells' sentence, Warren County Court of Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Oda II ordered him released to "intensive" community control, which will include an inpatient drug treatment program and a mental health evaluation, along with three years of probation with a nightly curfew.
Wells is also prohibited from contacting Patrick's family.
"I do find that, notwithstanding the concerns that everybody has in this case, that judicial release is appropriate," Oda said in court Thursday.
A Warren County assistant prosecutor, Teresa Hiett, was also in court Monday to object to Oda's ruling.
"Primarily, it's the fact that this defendant, this was supposedly a friend, and when his friend fell to the ground, this defendant did not immediately call for help," Hiett said. "This defendant ensured that Ryan Patrick was going to be dead that day."
Patrick's family could not be in court Thursday but made it clear they also opposed any early release.
During Wells' sentencing in early 2016, Patrick's mother, Tracey Miller didn't mince her words: "My son is dead because of this, my only son. Today is actually the day he died on a year ago. This man killed my son."
Wells said at his early release hearing that he plans to learn from his mistakes and try to move forward.
"I'm going to take my experiences, my struggles, my pain and my story and let it be a light for others who have been living in darkness," he said.