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Justice News

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Heroin Dealing and Overdose Death

Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on February 6, 2017, Donald S. Harden (age: 47) of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach to spend the remainder of his natural life in a federal prison. Under federal law, the jury’s findings combined with his prior record of drug dealing required that Harden receive a life sentence.


Harden was found guilty following a November 2016 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 used 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 delivered 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, resulting in his death from “acute heroin toxicity” according to the Medical Examiner. A second Neenah resident, Cory Dedering (age: 38) also suffered a fatal overdose from heroin linked to Harden. His body was discovered by Winnebago County Sheriff’s investigators days later. A third individual, a witness at the trial, suffered a non-fatal heroin overdose from that same batch of heroin.


In pronouncing sentence, Chief Judge Griesbach noted the serious nature of Harden’s offense and the continued danger that heroin presents to Northeast Wisconsin communities. Further, he noted that Harden, unlike others, was not a heroin user, but rather sought to profit from trafficking in the highly addictive narcotic. The court recited his lengthy record of drug offenses in both Iowa and Wisconsin. Finally, Griesbach advised the defendant that he “had no one to blame but himself for his situation.”


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 was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel R. Humble and Andrew J. Maier.


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For Additional Information Contact:

Public Information Officer Dean Puschnig 414-297-1700

Updated February 7, 2017