Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Homicide Charges Filed in Christmas Day Death of Former Pen Argyl Wrestler

Mikey Racciato
Blogger's Note: One of the most persuasive arguments for involvement in high school sports is that student athletes learn to use their time efficiently and tend to avoid drugs. Unfortunately, there are exceptions. Last week, I told you about a former student athlete charged with a grizzly murder at Parkhurst apartments in 2018.  Below is the sad story of homicide charges filed in the Christmas Day death of Pewn Argyl's Michael Lorenzo “Mikey” Racciato, 26.

From Mikey's obituary:

"Mikey was a 2013 graduate of Pen Argyl High School and a 2017 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh.

"While at Pen Argyl High School, Mikey excelled in both football and wrestling. In football he was a two way starter, helping the Green Knights win a Colonial League Championship in 2011 and District XI AA Championships, in 2011 and 2012. In his senior year he rushed for over 1400 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.

"In wrestling, Mikey’s high school career ended with a record of 186-8, he was a 4 time District XI AA Champion, a 3 time Southeast Regional Champion, AA, and a 3 time PIAA, AA, Champion, placing all four years. In 2013, he was awarded the Outstanding Wrestler Award at the PIAA Tournament. He was selected to wrestle in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic in 2013.

"Following high school, Mikey went on to Wrestle at Pitt. He was a 2 time ACC finalist, finishing first in his sophomore season. He also was a 2 time qualifier for the NCAA Wrestling Tournament."

From Northampton County DA Terry Houck:

Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck announced today a Macungie man is charged in the Christmas Day death of 26-year-old Michael Racciato.

Christopher Ferrante, 41, is charged with Drug Delivery Resulting in Death, two counts of Possession with Intent to Deliver a Controlled Substance, Criminal Use of Communication Facility, and Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance.

On Dec. 25, 2020, Colonial Regional Police responded to an unresponsive male inside his vehicle at the Towne Place Hotel parking lot in Lower Nazareth Township. The male, identified as Michael Racciato, was pronounced dead at the scene at 3800 Easton Nazareth Highway by the Northampton County Coroner’s Office. The cause of death was acute intoxication due to combined effects of fentanyl toxicity and the manner of death was determined accidental.

Michael “Mikey” Racciato, of Pen Argyl, was well-known in the Slate Belt for his wrestling career. He was a three-time PIAA State Champion for Pen Argyl and furthered his career at the University of Pittsburg, where he became the 2015 ACC Champion and was a two-time qualifier for the NCAA Wrestling Championships.

At the scene, police collected Racciato’s cell phone in addition to a syringe believed to be used by Racciato. Police obtained a search warrant and sent the cell phone to Petzold Lehigh County Digital Forensics Center for analysis.

Through investigation, police learned from Philip Racciato that his son had purchased drugs from Ferrante and contacted him with his cell phone. When police obtained data from Racciato’s cell phone, text messages from Dec. 24 showed conversations between Racciato and Ferrante detailing two drug transactions.

Police learned Racciato was transported from the Walmart located on Route 248 to St. Luke’s Anderson campus via ambulance for a possible drug overdose on Dec. 24. Police obtained video surveillance from the hospital campus where Racciato was being treated. Video showed Racciato, after being discharged, being picked up by a silver-colored Nissan Rogue SUV outside the emergency room on Dec. 24 just before 9:30 p.m.

Police also obtained video from the Walmart, which shows on Dec. 24 at 9:40 p.m., the same vehicle dropping Racciato off at his vehicle in the parking lot. Racciato was observed exiting the vehicle from the back seat. Shortly after, both vehicles left the parking lot.

On Jan. 6, police interviewed Ferrante in reference to this investigation. Ferrante said he was a heroin and fentanyl user and knew Racciato for five or six months. He further stated he last saw Racciato on Dec. 24 when he picked him up from the hospital and drove him to pick up his car at Walmart. Ferrante said he’d regularly supply Racciato with heroin to support his own habit, and that he purchased fentanyl in Allentown and the bags were always double bagged and stamped with “CHP” and “Pikachu”. Ferrante confirmed to police he texted Racciato on Dec. 24 and met with him earlier in the day to sell him between 3-5 bags of fentanyl.

Racciato overdosed when he ingested the fentanyl he purchased from Ferrante. While in the hospital, Racciato texted Ferrante and asked him to pick him up. Ferrante transported Racciato back to Walmart to get his car and again sold Racciato 3-5 bags of fentanyl. Ferrante told police he provided Racciato with a needle and said he always did.

“Drug overdose deaths are always tragic,” said Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck. “Families and communities are torn apart as we continue to search for answers as to how we can combat this unfortunate trend. This arrest is a small step in that fight and I want it to be known we will investigate drug overdose deaths for links to the drug supplier in every case where a young man or woman dies. There will be consequences for these drug deliveries resulting in death beyond sale and distribution charges. As these cases arise, homicide charges will be filed as it will serve as an important message that the victim’s death will not be in vain.”

The defendant was arrested [Monday] and taken before Magisterial District Magistrate John C. Capobianco. Bail was set at $250, 000, straight. He was remanded to the Northampton County Prison.

As in every criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.


Anonymous said...

While these cases are a sad testimony on America today, murder charges will not stick in this case or likely any other. Drug use is a personal responsibility issue. We have failed at controlling the distribution and use of drugs.

We are reaping widespread corruption at the federal, state and local level concerning drug distribution. We are witnessing dozens of murders every day over drug distribution.

I say let everyone who wants to take drugs, just let them do it. We cannot be the nanny of everyone in the country. The war on drugs has led to massive corruption, death and wasted money.

Anonymous said...

This was very difficult to read. The "war on drugs" failed long ago. Ask yourself if use, abuse, and associated crime are better or worse these days - despite prohibition. They're worse, of course. We learned the horrors of prohibition during .... Prohibition. It's time to take a new approach.

Anonymous said...

Your decisions matter. Mikey made his own choices unfortunately all the wrong ones. From the not paying the hooker fiasco to drugs. Sadly uta another devastated family. The druggy made the decision and he alone paid the price. The charges won't stick. This is a publicity stunt to somehow make all the blame in the dealer when it's a 50/50 of responsibility.

Anonymous said...

All young drug deaths are terrible. Some more so than others, as is this case. This young man had everything going for him. Yet, he was addicted. I am sadly surprised that the OD on the 24th led to additional purchase, ingestion, and death, on the 25th. I guess "scared straight" is just a wish.

Also, is there any legal requirement for a hospital/police/family to take action after the first OD? Or because the young man was over 18, he was on his own?

Anonymous said...

Pharmaceutical companies have profited very nicely off of human suffering. No government, either Democrat or Republican have done anything about that industry because that industry puts money in the politicians pockets.

Anonymous said...

Scratching my head on the purpose of the story. I hope you spoke with the family about posting this and your intentions. Otherwise, it looks like a ham handed attempt to make an arbitrary point about how 2+2 doesn't always equal 4. That's my view as the Bloggers note didn't quite clear the bar.

My condolences to the Racciato family.

Frank DeVito said...

"While these cases are a sad testimony on America today, murder charges will not stick in this case or likely any other. Drug use is a personal responsibility issue. We have failed at controlling the distribution and use of drugs."

While I understand your opinion about personal responsibility, your first sentence about these charges not sticking isn't quite accurate. In Pennsylvania, drug delivery resulting in death is a statutory offense with very harsh penalties: 18 Pa.C.S. § 2506. If someone intentionally delivers drugs and the person who receives them dies, the dealer can indeed be prosecuted for the death. Prosecutors throughout PA have used this law to go after heroine/fentanyl dealers with some success. This article provides a good basic overview:


Bernie O'Hare said...

10:02, The purpose of this story is to inform the public. First, no parent should conclude that involvement in organized sport gives his child an immunity to addiction. Second, fentanyl is extremely dangerous. I personally have known a few souls whose lives were cut short by ingesting drugs laced with fentanyl. You do not sweep stories like these under the rug. I have no desire to cause more pain to the Racciatos, and they can hopefully take solace in knowing that the publicity concerning their son's death might make others hesitate.

Anonymous said...

The only way this becomes a positive is if parents sit down and talk to their children. You only get one chance with heroin and fentanyl. Once you make that choice, it is over. There is no win. 10, 11, 12 years old. Talk to them and warn them of the danger. Don't leave it up to the teachers, peers or corner drug dealers to warn your kids. And don't assume a doctors prescription for pain is the best treatment.

The end result is death. But you have that choice to say no before you start.

Anonymous said...

Since this was a front page article in the ET it's not like the story was going to be unreported. And the dealer will absolutely serve jail time, most likely a state sentence. I'm a retired corrections officer and I saw these cases first hand. The dealer's statement pretty much sealed his fate. I'm guessing he did so out of a sense of remorse. Either way this is a tragedy. There are alot of devastated family members on both sides suffering right now. On Christmas no less. A holiday of joy and celebration will never be the same.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing it up Bernie. You didn't have to respond and I appreciate it. No parent should have to burry their child.