AMHERST — Eric Sinacori’s cellphone still contained text messages from his apparent heroin dealer promising to deliver the University of Massachusetts Amherst student to the “comforting arms of Miss H” just hours before he died in October 2013 of an overdose.
Yet, more than a year and a half later, prosecutors have not charged the fellow UMass student suspected of delivering the drug to Sinacori — or anyone else connected to his death. And Eric’s mother, Francesca Sinacori, is growing seriously impatient.
Already feeling betrayed by a university that didn’t tell the family that Eric was involved with drugs — using him as a police informant instead — Francesca Sinacori is now turning her frustration on the Northwestern district attorney’s office in Northampton.
“I know who the dealer was, and they should, too. They had the phone records. What are they even doing? It’s just so frustrating,” said Francesca Sinacori, who sent a text message to the cellphone of the suspected dealer saying bluntly, “You killed my son.”
The Northwestern district attorney’s office declined to comment on the investigation, but the prosecutor leading the investigation has told Francesca Sinacori that he hopes to finish by the end of June.
“We have been continuing to investigate the matter and build what I believe will be a solid case once the investigation is completed,” Assistant District Attorney Stephen Gagne wrote to Francesca Sinacori. “I cannot disclose the specifics of what we have been doing, or who we have been interviewing.”
But Francesca Sinacori said her family deserves more information about the ongoing investigation and why it’s taking so long.
“I just feel like I’m being patronized,” she said in an interview while she was in Amherst to present a scholarship in her son’s memory.
The circumstances surrounding Eric Sinacori’s death made national headlines last September when the Globe reported that Sinacori, initially identified by the pseudonym Logan, had served as a campus police informant in the year before his overdose.
Police had investigated Eric Sinacori for selling LSD and the club drug Molly in his dorm in 2012 but agreed not to press charges if he helped them catch another drug dealer, which he did. As a result, university officials never told Eric Sinacori’s parents about his involvement with drugs, raising questions about whether they did enough to get Eric Sinacori the help he needed.
Ultimately, the university ended its confidential informant program in January.
After originally requesting anonymity for the family, Francesca Sinacori has spoken out on ABC’s “20/20” about what she believes was a missed opportunity to save her son, noting that police found a hypodermic needle in his dorm room during a drug raid a year before his death.
Francesca Sinacori said the family had no idea that he was using heroin or dealing drugs, and she would have gotten immediate help for her son had she known. Instead, Eric’s father discovered their son’s body in his apartment when they visited on parents’ weekend in 2013.
Francesca Sinacori’s frustration with Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan stems from the fact that his office obtained Eric Sinacori’s cellphone shortly after his death, and it held a chilling exchange of text messages with his apparent dealer, who said he was stuck in traffic on the way to Sinacori’s apartment.
“My veins are crying . . . is the traffic gonna be bad?” Eric Sinacori texted late on Oct. 3, 2013.
“I know you’re hurting but you will very soon be in the loving comforting arms of Miss H,” the suspected dealer replied. Within hours, Eric Sinacori died of an overdose.
Despite the evidence, the investigation went cold until the Globe began reporting on Eric Sinacori’s case almost a year later, and Francesca Sinacori told UMass officials the name of the person she believes was her son’s heroin dealer.
Last October, Sullivan’s office announced it was reopening the investigation after UMass officials forwarded the name to them.
“How could they not have a name? It was right on the phone,” Francesca Sinacori said at the time. “It just says to me somebody didn’t do their job.”
UMass officials report that the suspected heroin dealer is no longer affiliated with the university.
Francesca Sinacori’s decision to publicly pressure the district attorney’s office goes directly against staff member Gagne’s strong suggestion to keep the matter private.
“Clearly, the amount of time it has taken to investigate this matter has frustrated you, and you have repeatedly threatened to ‘go public’ unless something is done immediately,” Gagne wrote on April 15. “I can’t control what you do or don’t do, but in my opinion as a prosecutor who has directed and overseen numerous criminal investigations, I am deeply concerned that whatever you might say or allege in ‘going public’ would only be to the detriment of what we are trying to do on this end.”
A former Massachusetts prosecutor, Robert Griffin, said he understood the difficulties that the DA’s office faces in trying to investigate Eric Sinacori’s death.
Drug investigations in which the user is dead and the dealer is at large are very hard to prosecute, Griffin explained.
“Something like a manslaughter charge almost never happens in cases like this. You almost need a witness that saw the heroin being sold and saw the heroin kill the person to get a conviction,” Griffin said.
The investigation does appear to be going forward. Sinacori’s girlfriend was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in March but said she was told the proceedings were postponed. She met with investigators in April but said she is unaware of a date being set for the convening of a grand jury.
Gagne gave Francesca Sinacori an expected timeline.
“What I can tell you, however, is that my best estimate (at this time) is that the investigation should be concluded by the end of June, but please keep in mind that that is only [an] estimate, and subject to change,” Gagne wrote to her.
Meanwhile, Francesca Sinacori has become committed to helping young people, something she was unable to do with her own son. She said she spends one night every week counseling a drug-abusing former friend of her son’s.
“I help him with his homework, help him plan his life, get things together, and show him how to start to live life without drugs,” she said.
But that doesn’t ease her impatience with the slow pace of justice for her son. She said the detective who returned her son’s cellphone told her “they had enough on the phone to arrest a dozen people.”
It leaves her wondering, she said, “Why haven’t they done anything?”
Eric Bosco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.