Crystal Lake man acquitted of drug-induced homicide, found guilty of lesser charge

Public defender criticizes McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office ‘continuing overreach’ in charging addicts with drug-induced homicide

A Crystal Lake man did not aid in delivering the dose of heroin that killed an Elgin woman but is “legally accountable” for the woman’s drug possession, a judge ruled Tuesday.

McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt acquitted 24-year-old Sabastian Zarbock of drug-induced homicide. A conviction of the Class X felony could have resulted in a six- to 30-year prison sentence. Instead, Wilbrandt found Zarbock guilty of possession of a controlled substance, claiming Zarbock was “legally accountable” for the victim’s heroin possession the day she overdosed.

Possession of a controlled substance is a less serious charge, which prosecutors never officially filed against Zarbock. He now faces a maximum of three years in prison.

Zarbock already has served about 1 1/2 years in the McHenry County Jail.

In his written closing argument, Zarbock’s special public defender Thomas Carroll criticized the state’s attorney’s office for using the drug-induced homicide statute to overcharge addicts.

“[A]s a matter of public policy, the State’s continuing overreach in the prosecution of addicts for drug-induced homicide has been found to be an utter failure on curbing overdose deaths,” Carroll wrote.

Zarbock and another man, 29-year-old Rufus McGee, were arrested after the May 28, 2019, death of Shannon Finn. McGee has pleaded not guilty to three counts of drug-induced homicide stemming from Finn’s death. A bag containing an off-white powder was found hidden beneath a cushion of the couch on which the woman died, prosecutors said.

According to charging records, Zarbock is accused of assisting Finn, 22, in arranging a heroin deal shortly before she died.

Prosecutors, however, failed to prove that Zarbock either delivered the heroin to Finn or that he was accountable for the actual drug-dealer’s actions, according to the judge’s decision.

“[T]o the best of the court’s understanding, [Zarbock] was unaware of who would be the actual source of any illegal drugs which Ms. Finn desired to purchase that evening, or where or how they would be purchased,” Wilbrandt said in his nine-page written decision.

Finn contacted Zarbock on May 27, 2019, and asked whether he had any drugs to sell her, according to the judge’s ruling. The pair had done drugs together in the past, and Zarbock seemingly helped Finn buy drugs on previous occasions, according to prosecutors’ written closing arguments.

This time, however, Zarbock didn’t have a car, phone or cash available for a transaction. Instead, Zarbock contacted another man who then contacted a third person. That person in turn reached out to the dealer “Melo,” later identified as McGee, court records show.

Zarbock and his two acquaintances, who have not been charged, ultimately met McGee near a mall in Oak Brook where they bought drugs with Finn’s money, according to police testimony.

“The evidence presented showed that [Zarbock] agreed to ‘call around’ and accompany Ms. Finn in hopes of obtaining a ‘gift’ of heroin sometime after Ms. Finn completed her own transaction,” Wilbrandt wrote.

Prosecutors asked in their written closing arguments that the judge convict Zarbock of possession of a controlled substance even if he were found not guilty of drug-induced homicide.

“Here, the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that [Zarbock] committed two unlawful acts. First ... [Zarbock] himself unlawfully possessed an unknown amount of heroin,” Wilbrandt wrote. “Secondly, he specifically intended, and did several acts in furtherance of that intent, to ‘aid and abet’ Shannon fin to her own unlawful possession of heroin.”

Because no evidence was presented proving how much heroin Finn possessed, Zarbock was found guilty of possessing the minimum amount punishable by law.

Zarbock remained at the McHenry County Jail Tuesday afternoon. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 8.

Katie Smith

Katie has reported on the crime and courts beat for the Northwest Herald since 2017. She began her career with Shaw Media in 2015 at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, where she reported on the courts, city council, the local school board, and business.