MANASSAS, Virginia. Alexis Botto did not meet his sister's ex-boyfriend until the funeral. Christopher Sorensen was the one who, during the first year, Jeanette was using heroin, put needles in her arm because she was afraid to do it herself. He had forged a check in his father's name to pay for the drugs and had hidden in his house to avoid a court order.
But when she died two years ago at age 24, Jeanette had bought the drugs herself. She was alone in her room in her family's suburban Virginia home when she injected into her vein what she thought was heroin.
She was fentanyl, and died almost instantaneously, although no one knew until her father found her bloody and cold three nights after Christmas in 2016. By the same staircase that the police had taken with handcuffs to her boyfriend, Jeanette was carried in a bag white .
The Bottos invited Sorensen to the funeral, thinking it would be a wake-up call: that, as his cousin Krystal said, changing the man he loved could be "the sacrifice of his life."
"He was just a normal-looking man," recalled Alexis Botto in federal court in Alexandria in December. "The real monster was the heroine."
At the time of Jeanette's death, they did not know that another Sorensen girlfriend, Coral Blaylock, had died of an overdose barely a month and a half earlier, at the age of 25, on Thanksgiving Day. Kelsey Miller, a close friend, said Sorensen had approached Blaylock when he came out of rehab.
"From the moment he met Chris it was like a downward spiral," Miller said. "He just made her go back to … She was very good, just a couple of months later, she's dead."
Two others of his ex in Baltimore also suffered a fatal overdose, he later told FBI agents. Later, Sorensen gave a pill containing fentanyl to another woman he was seeing. She almost died of an overdose, but was revived with naloxone.
"The monster is not the heroine," Judge T.S. Ellis III said in sentencing Sorensen, 31, last month to 22 years in prison. "The monster is the people who distribute drugs, particularly to young people."
With federal authorities cracking down on opioid distributors to combat the overdose epidemic, the case illustrates the destruction that can be caused by a single seller of low-level drugs and the challenge of unraveling relationships between users and distributors.
Sorensen's defense attorney, Adam Krischer, said there is no point in attributing evil intentions to an addict who stumbles in life without a goal beyond his next discharge.
"The heroine is the monster, but we can not punish the heroine," he said in court.
"He would probably be dead if he were not incarcerated," Sorensen told the judge. "I've lost many loved ones, I never wanted to hurt my friend."
In an interview, Alexis Botto said he did not intend for his words to exonerate Sorensen, or to use them in his defense.
"When I said that the heroine was the monster, she explained to me all the bad decisions my sister had made and all the things she had done to hurt us all, it was not her, it was drugs," she said. "Chris is still responsible for his decisions to shoot these girls and distribute these drugs, even if drugs are a monster, it's just as important to do what he did."
Jeanette Botto graduated from Woodbridge High School in Prince William County in 2010. While living at home and working for an electrical company, she began studying to become an electrician teacher.
Almost at the same time, he met Sorensen. Family and friends do not know how, maybe in a tattoo parlor. They did not know he was using heroin until he had his first overdose in 2012, two years after he started using it.
"During those two years, Chris shot him every day," said his sister Krystal Botto, usually at 4:30 in the morning and again at 4:30 in the afternoon.
After cleaning up her family, Jeanette Botto repeatedly tried to stop using it, often when Sorensen was in jail or when she had an overdose. But she was still falling.
"It was a vicious circle in which she returned with him, recovered, overdosed and returned home," Krystal said.
Police called him, her, the two when they blew up the tax refund at a hotel.
"We tried every means to lock this man up forever," said his father, Perry. "Because we knew he was a poison to her."
Sorensen convinced that his rehabilitation programs did not work, his family said, saying it was easier to get drugs in one than on the street. She told her family that Sorensen would cast her for other young women and then bring her back; Miller said he was equally abusive to Blaylock.
The couple finally separated in 2016, thinks his family. But Jeanette could not stay clean, and finally found her way to Sorensen's supplier in Baltimore.
"She thought she knew the distributor, so she knew the product," Krystal said. "We always told her she could cut with something else, she said no, that's not going to happen"
Later, it seemed that Sorensen was aware of his own reputation.
"In the city I am known as the cruelty towards zombies," Sorensen wrote in a song posted on his Facebook page about a month before his arrest in March, lamenting that "God" gave him the "most attractive" woman , and then he took Life from his chest. "
He added to the message: "RIP nette, coral, Smokey". Nette was his nickname for Jeanette.
In her last six months, her family said, Jeanette showed signs that she had moved away from drug control. He was baking, competing with remote control cars, insisting on going to the tanning salon before lifting weights. Sorenson was out of the picture.
Jeanette hated the way drug abuse had rotted her teeth, so she spent her savings to fix them. The dental surgeon prescribed Percoset, who complained that he did not help him enough with the pain.
In 2016, she arrived at her grandmother's house in Manassas for Christmas Eve for the first time in three years, after having stayed away for fear of being judged.
So her older sister, Tonya Botto, did not mention the new brands in Jeanette's hands, afraid to push her away. He questioned the 60-inch and $ 600 television his sister bought him at Best Buy with a Christmas bonus, because Jeanette had hidden the relapses with excessive generosity. But when she called her father, he said he had been watching Jeanette's bank account and saw no sign that he was taking heroin again.
"She could have taken that $ 600 and bought drugs, but she did not," he said. "And he was convinced that she was fine."
The night before her death, he said, he was talking to a friend of the family "about how he had kicked her, how she was one of the ones who survived."
When you look at the pictures of that Christmas now, your family can see that it is very high with your eyes dilated. Two nights later, she told her father that she was sick and that she would sleep the next day.
He found his body when he returned home from work.
His mother, who had moved with her youngest daughter to protect her from the influence of Jeanette, committed suicide months later.
For his family, Sorensen was not a monster; He was another victim.
He was addicted to heroin at age 16, and used drugs in part to treat the pain of scoliosis and degenerative disc disease. His lawyer said that when he went to Baltimore to buy drugs, he could not return to Virginia without stopping to get high.
In an interview, Krischer reiterated that his client did not have a malicious design. "He was an addict who used drugs and liked girls and used drugs with girls," he said.
Sorensen pleaded guilty to a charge of distributing fentanyl that caused serious injuries in connection with the overdose of the ex-girlfriend who survived.
A doctor who prescribed opioids Sorensen pleaded guilty to illegally prescribing oxycodone; He faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in March.
"Addicts receive sentences of decades," Krischer said. "People who make money with the misery of others tend to get better."
Experts agree that low-level distributors like Sorensen are, in the words of drug policy expert Jonathan Caulkins, "a minor player easily replaceable."[s] in the global scheme ".
But, he said, prosecutors rarely find a merchant linked to multiple deaths: "Even if it does not break into the market, this individual is unusually infectious in an abstract sense," he said.
"Certainly, Chris Sorensen is not going to use or give anyone drugs," Krischer acknowledged.
For Jeanette Botto's family, that's something. Your monsters are gone, buried with her. But they hope that other families can learn from what happened, because they know that monsters are everywhere.