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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Wisconsin

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Jury Renders Guilty Verdict in Heroin Overdose Death; Defendant Faces Mandatory Life Sentence

Gregory J. Haanstad, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on November 16, 2016, Donald S. Harden (age: 47) of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, was found guilty following a jury trial in federal court in Green Bay, Wisconsin, of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 846 and 841(b)(1)(B).  The jury also found beyond a reasonable doubt that the conspiracy involved 100 grams or more of heroin and that the heroin distributed by Harden resulted in the overdose death of Neenah, Wisconsin, resident Frederick J. Schnettler (age: 24) in September 2014.

The evidence at trial revealed that Harden purchased kilograms of heroin in Chicago, Illinois, and using a “stash house” in Watertown, Wisconsin, repackaged the heroin for distribution in the Fox Valley area and elsewhere. Throughout the late Spring and Summer of 2014, Harden would deliver heroin to mid-level distributors in the Fox Valley; those distributors in-turn would deal smaller amounts to numerous heroin users throughout the area.

On September 4, 2014, Harden arranged a meeting with one of his Fox Valley distributors at a retail parking lot in Waupun, Wisconsin. At that meeting, Harden gave 11 grams of heroin to one of his co-conspirators warning her “be careful with this stuff, it’s got bodies on it.” That heroin was later used by Schnettler and others, resulting in his death from “acute heroin toxicity” according to the Medical Examiner. Another overdose death linked to Harden’s heroin was discovered by Winnebago County Sheriff’s investigators days later.     

Harden was convicted of the manufacture or delivery of cocaine in 2000 in Jefferson County Circuit Court, and manufacture or delivery of heroin in 2007 in Dane County Circuit Court.     

Based on his prior felony drug convictions and the jury’s determination that he is responsible for the death of Frederick Schnettler, Harden faces a mandatory life sentence when he is sentenced by Chief Federal Judge William C. Griesbach in February 2017. He remains incarcerated pending that hearing.   

The case was investigated by the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group – Drug Unit, the City of Appleton Police Department, the Jefferson and Dodge County Drug Task Forces, the Oshkosh Police Department, the Fond du Lac County Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel R. Humble and Andrew J. Maier.

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For further information contact:

Public Information Officer Dean Puschnig

(414) 297-1700


Updated November 17, 2016