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Drug dealer at center of double murders trial may get sentencing break

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CONCORD - A convicted Farmington drug dealer whose home was the site of a grisly double homicide in 2017 will likely reap some benefit from the recently enacted First Step Act when he is sentenced in federal court for meth trafficking next Tuesday, The Rochester Voice has learned.

Dean Smoronk, 57, formerly of 979 Meaderboro Road, pleaded guilty on Sept. 3 to trafficking in five grams or more of methamphetamine, or "ice" in July 2018.

His 979 Meaderboro Road home was the site of the double stabbing deaths of Smoronk's longtime girlfriend, Christine Sullivan, 48; and an acquaintance of hers, Jenna Pellegrini, 32, of Barrington, who were both killed early the morning of Jan. 27, 2017.

Murder suspect Timothy Verrill, victims Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pellegrini

On Friday, federal court records showed an entry that reveals a motion to a "downward departure" for Smoronk's sentence, which normally means a statutory minimum sentence is being sought.

That was followed on Monday by court records that note, "Assented to motion for downward departure" for Smoronk.

Dena Blanco, a paralegal specialist and public information contact for the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire, said attorneys handling the case could not comment on the court entries, but stated that the filings relate to "legal issues resulting from the First Step Act."

The act was part of a bi-partisan effort to improve criminal justice outcomes, as well as to reduce the size of the federal prison population.

It was backed by President Trump and hailed by pop luminaries like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, The First Step Act requires them to use a "risk and needs assessment system to assess the recidivism risk and criminogenic needs of all federal prisoners and to place prisoners in recidivism reducing programs and productive activities to address their needs and reduce this risk."

They are also required to house prisoners with similar risk levels together in recidivism reduction programming and housing assignments.

Smoronk was taken into custody last December on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm as part of a Strafford County drug sweep. He was accused of trying to sell a Sig Sauer P-320 9 mm originally stolen out of Milton.

Prosecutors in the case, however, never sought an indictment on the gun charge, instead indicting Smoronk in the meth case.

Smoronk's trial was originally to have been held in June, but was postponed several times before he pleaded guilty in September. The minimum sentence in a meth trafficking plea deal like Smoronk's ranges from five to 40 years, Blanco said.

Tim Verrill during appearance in court at his October murder trial. (Rochester Voice file photo)

Meanwhile, the accused murderer of the two women, Timothy Verrill, 36, of Dover, faces his second trial on first degree murder charges after his first was declared a mistrial in October as a result of poor state police compliance on discovery issues.

Verrill will be back in Strafford County Superior Court next Wednesday when his defense team and prosecutors will try to iron out timeframes for various discovery issues, Geoff Ward, the lead prosecutor, said on Tuesday. That hearing is set for 11:30 a.m.

Defense lawyers have said they may seek discovery items from an ongoing drug probe into Smoronk's drug enterprise that may go back as far as two years prior to the women's slayings in January 2017.

During the aborted trial, Sullivan, Smoronk's longtime girlfriend, was said to be a major player in his Farmington drug dealing hub. Smoronk was also alleged to have had a major drug enterprise in Cape Coral, Fla., where he owned a condo.

Smoronk returned to his Meaderboro Road home upon his return from Florida on Jan. 28, 2017, but didn't call police for several hours because he said he wanted to review security camera footage first. He has never been implicated in the killings by law enforcement, however defense attorneys at the October trial sought to tie him to either orchestrating the killings or perhaps even helping in the act.

Smoronk has had a history of drug arrests and convictions going back to his college days at the University of Southern Illinois.

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