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Charges filed in death of UMass student who was drug informant

Eric Sinacori, seen in an undated photo.Sinacori family

The mother of a University of Massachusetts Amherst student involved in a controversial campus informant program who later died of a heroin overdose praised prosecutors on Monday for bringing criminal charges against her son’s alleged drug dealer.

“I felt relief that Eric is going to get some kind of justice,” said Francesca Sinacori, the mother of Eric Sinacori, by phone from her home in New Jersey. “I want this to be a warning to all the drug dealers that you’re not going to get a slap on the wrist, you’re going to get charged with manslaughter.”

She spoke to the Globe hours after a grand jury returned indictments charging former University of Massachusetts graduate student Jesse Carrillo, 27, of Derry, N.H., with involuntary manslaughter and distributing heroin in connection with the death of Sinacori, 20, who worked for campus police as a confidential informant in the year before his 2013 overdose.

Carrillo is scheduled to be arraigned later this week in Hampshire Superior Court, according to Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan’s office.

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Carrillo’s family could not be reached for comment.

Sinacori’s death was highlighted in a Globe investigative series that revealed shortcomings in the campus police informant program.

In January, university Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy announced that the school was ending the program, after a university-appointed panel completed a highly critical report.

The report concluded that the informant system was too secretive and may have harmed the informants by allowing them to avoid treatment for their drug problems in exchange for helping police catch other offenders.

In Sinacori’s case, police had investigated him for selling LSD and the club drug Molly in his dormitory in 2012, but they agreed not to press charges if he helped them catch another drug dealer, which he did.

As a result, university officials never told Sinacori’s parents about his involvement with drugs, raising questions about whether they did enough to get him the help he needed.

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“We are fully supportive of the district attorney’s work to pursue justice in this tragic case,” said Ed Blaguszewski, a spokesman for UMass Amherst, in a statement Monday night. “Jesse Carrillo is not a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and he has been . . . prohibited from being on university property since October 2014.”

Francesca Sinacori initially requested anonymity for her son, whom the Globe identified with a pseudonym. However, she later went public on ABC’s “20/20” about what she believed was a missed opportunity to save Eric, noting that police found a hypodermic needle in his dorm room during a drug raid a year before his death.

Francesca Sinacori said that she had no idea that her son was using heroin or dealing drugs and that she would have gotten immediate help for him had she known. Instead, Eric’s father discovered their son’s body in his apartment when they visited on parents’ weekend in 2013.

“I never want another parent to go through what Eric’s father and I have gone through,” she said Monday. “I’m happy my son is getting justice; it’s not going to bring him back but it’s something.”

In May, she expressed frustration that Carrillo had not yet been charged, even though Sullivan’s office had possession of her son’s cellphone, which contained a chilling text exchange between Eric and his suspected dealer.

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“My veins are crying . . . is the traffic gonna be bad?” Eric Sinacori texted the alleged drug dealer 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 dealer allegedly replied. Sinacori died within hours.

Francesca Sinacori said Monday that she hopes to attend Carrillo’s arraignment.

“I want to see action. I think it will hit me more in reality when I see it,” she said.

She also delivered a stern message to Carrillo.

“Justice will be served,” she said. “You took my son and by taking my son, you’ve ruined your own life. You did this to yourself.”


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Eric Bosco can be reached atericjobosco@gmail.com.