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Mother of son who died from synthetic drug overdose calls for immunity law after drug maker sentenced

FARGO – The dangers of synthetic drugs weighed heavily on the mind of Debbie Bjerk on Tuesday, the day after a Fargo man was sentenced for concocting the drugs that killed her 18-year-old son in June 2012.

Bjerk’s son, Christian, was at a house party in Grand Forks when he ate chocolate laced with synthetic hallucinogenic drugs and fatally overdosed.

“He had no idea that he would be ingesting a drug that would kill him,” she said. “My son was the innocent person there.”

Bjerk, 54, of Grand Forks hopes her son’s death will be seen as a cautionary tale. In an interview with The Forum, she called for more funding for law enforcement agencies to educate people about synthetic drugs and for a North Dakota law that would give immunity to anyone reporting an overdose.

She said the people partying with her son left him to die after the drugs incapacitated him. “Nobody wanted to call police because they were afraid of getting into trouble themselves,” she said.

Authorities said Andrew Spofford, the man sentenced Monday, described himself as a “hobby chemist” who ordered the chemicals to make the drugs. In less than a week, the drugs killed Christian Bjerk and 17-year-old Elijah Stai of Park Rapids, Minn. The substances also led to serious health issues for a handful of other users, including juveniles.

“The emotional impact of this case has been horrendous,” Debbie Bjerk said.

Spofford, 23, pleaded guilty to five drug charges. Departing from a 20-year minimum, U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson ordered him to serve 17½ years in prison.

Last month, Erickson sentenced 20-year-old Adam Budge, who admitted he got the drugs from Spofford and gave them to Stai and Christian Bjerk. Budge received a prison sentence of 11 years and four months, along with three years of supervised probation.

Spofford, Budge and at least 13 others have been charged in connection with the case. The alleged Houston-based kingpin, Charles Carlton, is accused of buying chemicals from Asia and Europe for sale to people in several states, including Spofford.

Carlton, who has pleaded not guilty, is set for a change-of-plea hearing Monday in Fargo’s federal court.

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