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Synthetic drug maker gets 17 years in two teens' deaths

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - A Grand Forks man who told investigators he was the "hobby chemist" who made synthetic hallucinogens blamed for killing two teens has been sentenced to 17½ years in federal prison.

Andrew Spofford’s sentence is the longest of 12 handed out so far by U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson in a case dating back to June 2012 that has alleged international connections.

Chris Myers, the first assistant U.S. attorney for North Dakota who prosecuted the case, said drugs Spofford made caused the deaths of Christian Bjerk, 18, on June 11, 2012, in Grand Forks and Elijah Stai, 17, of Park Rapids, Minn., two days later in East Grand Forks, Minn.

Myers said Spofford ordered chemicals from Europe and Asia, largely through Charles Carlton of Houston, and used them to “cook” synthetic hallucinogens in early 2012 in his Grand Forks home.

He pleaded guilty in October 2012 to five counts of conspiracy to distribute illegal synthetic hallucinogens.

Spofford, 23, appeared Monday in federal court in Fargo.

All but one of the people charged in the case have pleaded guilty or are scheduled to do so.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
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