2 men plead guilty in Crystal Lake man’s fatal fentanyl overdose

‘No time is enough,’ Colton Steiner’s mom Jan Bisram said after Tuesday’s hearing.

Colton Steiner

Two men charged in the fatal fentanyl overdose of a Crystal Lake man pleaded guilty Tuesday, with one getting a prison term and the other sentenced to probation and jail time.

Ryan James, 27, of Crystal Lake pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to deliver 1 to 15 grams of fentanyl, a Class 1 felony, and was sentenced to six years in prison. In exchange, more serious charges of drug-induced homicide and criminal drug conspiracy were dismissed, according to McHenry County court records.

James is required to serve half his sentence and will receive credit for 186 days in the county jail. He then will serve one year of mandatory supervised release. Judge Mark Gerhardt noted that the offense James was charged with was the result of the use or abuse of drugs and alcohol and recommended that he receive treatment while in prison.

Ryan George James

Jacob Stealy, 27, whose address is listed in court and jail records in West Dundee and Crystal Lake, also pleaded guilty to possession with intent to delivery 1 to 15 grams of fentanyl, a Class 1 felony, and was sentenced to 48 months of probation and 180 days in jail.

In exchange for his guilty plea, drug-induced homicide and criminal drug conspiracy charges were dismissed. During his probation, he must not consume alcohol or illicit drugs and must submit to screenings. He is required to obtain an alcohol and drug evaluation and follow any recommendations, Gerhardt said.

Jacob A. Stealy

The pair was charged in the death of Colton Steiner, 27, who suffered a fentanyl overdose June 23, 2021. Neither defendant made any statement during the hearing.

During the hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Fara Momen read impact statements from Steiner’s mother and two siblings. His sister and friend read their statements in court.

Steiner was one of nine children Jan Bisram adopted in creating what she called “a rainbow family” because of their various races. In her statement read in court by the prosecutor, Bisram said her son, whom she adopted with his two biological brothers, was talented, personable and well-liked, and he cared about everyone. He often helped other people and bought gifts for his friends and their children. He was a songwriter and producer who dreamed of becoming a recording artist, she said.

Bisram said her “life changed in an instant” when her son died. She recalled giving him CPR. She said she struggles with the thought that had she gotten to her son’s home sooner, “maybe I could have saved him.”

Jayden Bisram, Steiner’s 10-year-old brother, said in a statement read by a prosecutor in court that his big brother was his “inspiration, my role model” and he has struggled since his brother’s death.

Michael Bisram, 12, said he also has struggled since his brother died.

“I just love him to the moon and back,” he said.

Steiner’s sister, Alexis Bisram, 19, wept as she read her statement in court about the special relationship they shared. She recalled all the important life moments he will not be there for and recalled their last conversation, when each said, “I love you,” as they always did.

“Not only is my big brother gone, but my best friend in the whole wide world,” Alexis Bisram said. “All he ever wanted was to one day have a family of his own and to share his music.”

She said her brother looked forward to having his own son and naming him Colton Jr.

“I will never find it in my heart to forgive you for taking away my brother,” Alexis Bisram told the defendants. The day he died, “my world came crashing down,” she said.

Cecelia Oplt, 22, said Steiner was her best friend, and he often checked on her, especially when she was feeling depressed.

“My heart will forever be broken,” Oplt said.

After the hearing, Steiner’s mom said of the sentences, “No time is enough.”

“Each of them is going to have to sit every day and think about what they did,” Jan Steiner said.

James’ attorney, Dominic Buttitta Jr., said after the hearing: “This is a very sad case because it showed the impact that addiction can have on our young people. Overall, we are very happy with the outcome of the case, particularly the fact that addiction treatment programs are involved to hopefully prohibit a tragedy like this happening again.”

A third man, Lucious Hemphill, 22, is serving a six-year prison term on a possession charge related to Steiner’s death and was charged last week with the more serious drug-induced homicide. It is unclear when he will be brought to McHenry County court from downstate Shawnee Correctional Center to address that charge.

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