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Posted on Sat, May 19, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor man faces life in prison for allegedly providing heroin that caused coach's death

By Kyle Feldscher

A 22-year-old Ann Arbor man faces life in prison for allegedly supplying the heroin that led to the overdose death of a Father Gabriel Richard High School hockey coach.

Brendan Lathrop is charged with delivery of a controlled substance causing death and delivery of a controlled substance less than 50 grams, according to court records. He’s facing trial on the charges after a preliminary exam last week, records show.

Lathrop is accused of providing the drugs that led to the death of Nick Belanger, 26, in January, according to police. Belanger was found dead in his car outside of Lathrop’s residence in the Park Place Apartments on Jan. 22, police said.


Nick Belanger

Courtesy of MLive

Lathrop was arraigned on the charges on April 13. He was originally given a 10 percent of $5,000 bond but tested positive for drugs while on bond, records show. He’s now lodged at the Washtenaw County Jail after having his bond revoked, according to records.

Van Belanger, Nick Belanger’s father, said his family has been devastated by his son' death. Van Belanger said his son was not a drug addict and had never used heroin before the night he died.

He said his son was the type of person who always worked to brighten people’s days, especially when they were feeling down.

“Nick was a wonderful, giving young man,” Van Belanger said. “He was always very thoughtful and caring about other folks.”

“That’s who Nick was,” he added. “We’re at a loss for words.”

Van Belanger declined comment on the case against Lathrop, other than saying the full story of his son’s death would come out during the court proceedings.

Belanger was a 2004 graduate of Saline High School, according to an obituary. He helped coach Gabriel Richard’s hockey team to the school’s first ever Catholic League Championship, the obituary stated.

The almost-three month investigation was contingent on toxicology reports from the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s Office, police said. Investigators also had to locate Lathrop, who had left the area following Belanger’s death, police said.

Lathrop is scheduled for a pretrial hearing at 1:30 p.m. June 12 in front of Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Donald Shelton, according to court records.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Mon, May 21, 2012 : 1:52 a.m.

Legalize and regulate. We don't treat alcoholics and smokers like criminals, do we?


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

We not only do treat them as criminals, we have done so for hundreds of years: Open intoxicants, Prohibition, federal and state tax stamps on tobacco are all forms of criminalization of drinkers and smokers. Set up a still in your backyard, Ross, and see what happens.


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 10:56 p.m.

If any of you read the story carefully you would see that Van Belanger said he would not comment on the charges other than to say the full story would come out during the court proceedings. A few of you speak of personal responsibility, why not exercise a little of it yourself and let the justice system bring the facts out. In this country all are innocent until proven guilty, victim and accused. Very easy for you to sit behind a anonymous login and pass judgment, on either side. This is the problem with these message boards, people say things they would never say to another face to face. RIP Nick, justice will be served!


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

If this guy gets a life sentence, does that mean we can start prosecuting other dealers for other consequences? What about heroine users who get HIV? Should we take legal action against the person who supplied him/her with the infected needle? If my child becomes addicted to cocaine and a ruins her life, can I sue the dealer who gave her her first hit? Maybe it's my fault because I was a terrible parent, and I can be prosecuted! That's why these substances are illegal in the first place: they're dangerous. You use at your own risk. Targeting this guy for homicide is not going to make a dent in the problem. We just found out that a family member of mine, age 20 years old, has been doing heroin for a year. She doesn't have health insurance, and we don't have the resources to cover her rehab, so now what? Maybe society's efforts should really be focused on addressing the root causes of the problem and helping people beat their addictions.


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

Peer pressure still exists at any age. A first time user normally knows little about what they are getting into. People are introduced to drugs by friends more often than searching for the drug then the connection. Bad people aren't bad because they are just destroying their lives but because they are destroying the lives of others. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

Where are the lawsuits against bars and liquor stores who provides fatal doses of alcohol? This country sickens me that such a vicious drug can be legal and so normal.


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 3:23 a.m.

Not knowing the full story, No comment here!


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

Why didn't they prosecute the cigarette company that killed my grandparents and gave my mom emphysema? Or the Store that sold my cousin the booze that caused his drunk driving death?

Basic Bob

Sun, May 20, 2012 : 3:23 a.m.

Because cigarettes, booze, and synthetic opioids are manufactured by the ruling class. Illicit drugs are in direct competition.

Ron Granger

Sat, May 19, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

Heroin is big business. A big for-profit business. The people who make it their vocation are always looking to "hook" new clients. Whether they are business people doing it purely for the money, or addicts looking to finance their own habit by expanding their customer base does not matter.

Ron Granger

Sat, May 19, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

They hold bartenders responsible for over-serving patrons, especially when death results. Why would we not do the same in the case of Heroin?


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 5:27 a.m.

bar tenders will cut people off if they appear to have had too much to drink, this dealer was not giving him hit after hit. The man picked up however much he wanted and died because he did too much, there was probably more left. When people buy drugs they usually don't just get one fix at a time (unless they don't have enough money for more at the time but this does not seem to be the case with this young man)


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

Because alcohol is a legal substance which requires a license to serve and which can be used safely. Heroin is illegal and far more dangerous. Both user and supplier (who is also probably a user) are already engaging in risky, illegal activity. It's not the same thing.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

People probably shouldn't leave comments if they don't know the whole story.


Mon, May 21, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

If we waited until we knew the whole story, alexis, there would be no newspapers. History books would be written several hundred years after the event. And they still wouldn't contain the whole story.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

I think you're both right :)


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

Do we ever know the whole story about anything? Despite what Paul Harvey says..., or said.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

Sympathetic comments on this forum for the drug dealer blows my mind. Does anyone here actually know the facts in this case?


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

Why would I blame the dealer anymore than I blame Absolut Vodka or the liquor store when a person dies from drunk driving or choking on their own vomit while drunk, or cirrhosis of the liver?


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

Upward of 90 percent of the world supply of heroin is sourced from Afghanistan. Now, were we to put hundreds of thousands of troops there and work assiduously to curtail its production, why, we might accomplish something in the eternal war on drugs. Doing that, of course, would require both recognition of the frequently tragic extent of the problem and willingness to act. Far easier to prosecute small time sellers and users in this country, apparently.


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

They won't do it because the people of Afghanistan would turn on them and they would be fighting every faction. We turn a blind eye to the drug trade over there in return for cooperation of the locals.

Michigan Reader

Sat, May 19, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

@johnnya2--There's merit in curtailing the supply side. If you have a weed in your yard, it's best to pull it out by its roots.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

Actually that is a fallacy. The right wing believes things are controlled from the SUPPLY side . They believe it in economics and in drug use. The fact is DEMAND is the side of the curve that makes things change. The demand fro eating dog meat is low. Therefore companies do not supply it since there is no price they can reasonable sell it at, even though it would be cheaper than beef, or chicken. If there is no demand, then Afghans have nothing that people want to buy. Supply side economics do not work


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

Let the father believe what he wants about his son. He is in horrible pain. He will come to terms with it on his own time. Its the parents with children who are still living and using drugs that need the wake up calls.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

@Twirtzy, you obviously have no idea what the father and family are going through, what they have acknowledged, what they are feeling, or what they know. Until you do you might want to stop speculating as to what the father should and should not do. And yes I do know the family.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

And the father could be advocate for those "wake up calls". Hopefully, he eventually comes to his senses and do just that. His life will be miserable unless he acknowledges his son's drug use and stops living that lie.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

This is very, very sad that we have lost (another) promising life to drugs, and specifically heroin, the use of which is gaining much popularity in our community. It is a horrible drug that is extremely difficult to kick leaving lasting damaging effects. And, yes, the user is responsible, but don't fool yourselves into thinking your loved ones are safe from it. We live in an affluent community saturated with prescription drugs. Our children are getting them out of medicine cabinets. The hospital ERS are sending drugs, such as vicadin, home far too generously - in my opinion. Prescription drugs seem okay to our children. But what happens once these opioid class drugs in pill form become harder to obtain, or cost the user more money than they have? And, at the same time heroin becomes more available at a lesser cost? Our community is ripe for heroin addiction - and that is exactly what is happening. My heart goes out to this family and every other family that is suffering because of drug addiction.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Agreed, well said. I know a few people who became addicted to the prescription Oxycontin, but when their prescription ran out they found themselves confronted with paying $80 per pill - so they picked up Oxycontin's relative, heroin. I come from the affluent community of Pinckney, where we are losing track of the number of mounting heroin deaths - something I never would have imagined less than 10 years ago.

Basic Bob

Sat, May 19, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

Supplying heroin should be a crime. But it is not homicide. This is one of the dumbest laws ever, allowing a self-righteous district attorney to force the state to spend $2 million to house a young man for the rest of his life. Money that could be spent on teacher pay, drug treatment, road construction, or thousands of other worthwhile state programs.


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

You can be charged with a crime for being there while someone else commits the crime; murder for example, as an accessory............this guy wasn't even an accessory, he was the supplier.

Basic Bob

Sun, May 20, 2012 : 3:15 a.m.

@johnnya2, Oh, so now you want bad law enforced rigidly? The prosecutor's party affiliation offers him no cover.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

It is not the "self-righteous district attorney". It is the moronic legislature that WRITES the laws. He is charged with prosecuting the LAW. The law says supplying is murder. Write your legislature and tell them to change the law. You really need to learn thoww thing swork before you comment on things you know nothing about.

Michigan Reader

Sat, May 19, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

Life is the maximum sentence under the law, it doesn't mean he'll get that much. There are graduated guidelines that take into account his criminal history, and other factors. The only crimes where life is mandatory are first degree murder and felony murder.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

The district attorney (Brian Mackie) does not care where the money comes from...he iss a democrat so his solution is to just raise taxes.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 1 p.m.

Our prisons are filled with addicts-we have lost the need/funding to help addictive compulsive behavior. We need to make the need more cost effective. These people are not criminals they are addicts and this is no more than a tradgedy


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 11:54 p.m.

Ron, Using that logic, we are going to have a lot of doctors facing life in prison.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

Putting him in prison to further a political agenda just takes away a spot for a real criminal that may harm an innocent.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Ron, your statement illustrates your lack of knowledge about the nature of addiction. It IS about addiction - addicts peddle drugs to support their habit WAY more often than robbery or other associated crimes.

Ron Granger

Sat, May 19, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

This not a question of incarcerating an addict. It is a question of incarcerating someone alleged to have supplied the drug that the medical examiner says caused someone's death.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Certainly this is a horrible tragedy for the Berlanger family but why compound it by ruining another life. Incarcerating Mr Lathrop for 20 or more years will not resurrect Mr Berlanger nor is it likely to have any affect on the availability of heroin. Moreover, the logic that a dealer is responsible for the user's death is a bit of a stretch. By this reasoning if someone comes to a barbecue drinks too much and then kills himself by driving into a tree the host should be charged with murder. Again the self righteous Mr. Mackie over reaches and over criminalizes.


Wed, May 23, 2012 : 12:26 a.m.

Happens all the time. Look in the papers this June if there are any deaths after graduation parties. See who gets charged...the host who supplied the booze.


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

*there are grounds


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

@Malorie It is a little different when it is a bar, though, because the owners and their employees must be licensed and trained to serve liquor. I'm not sure about individuals, either, although I know individuals can be prosecuted for serving alcohol to minors... I think there is grounds for taking legal action in those situations, but I can't believe we are talking about a life sentence for this guy.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

While I fully agree with you, it's funny you say this because people actually are charged with a crime if they serve someone "too much" alcohol and allow them to drive. It's usually bars that I hear of being prosecuted, but individual citizens probably have also.

Nathan Hobson

Sat, May 19, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

Curious what the first commenter means by "drug advocates", if they actually believe that anyone is an advocate for heroin, or that it is similar to all drugs, ie: alchohol, marijuana, nicotene. Sounds like a ridiculous comparison to forward an agenda on the heels of a very tragic event.


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

Read the reply to my post their is a guy who is advocating and there are many more on here..................


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 11:22 a.m.

Very sad and heart breakingfor all involved. Any comments from drug advocates?


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Sure, I have a couple of comments, but they wouldn't get past the moderator.


Sun, May 20, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

@Malorie - read the post below you as well as many others who advocate. So the new norm should be that we just give these people drugs because they are addicts so they don't end up dead like this young man?

mike gatti

Sat, May 19, 2012 : 7:04 p.m.

Why would you use your comment on this article to demonstrate your real or perceived moral superiority? The first sentence was true. The second was juvenile.


Sat, May 19, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

Have you seriously ever heard anyone advocate heroin use?

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, May 19, 2012 : 12:08 p.m.

Here's one for ya..... Heroin is not the same as pot!!!