Fiancé of overdose victim testifies in accused drug dealer's murder trial
TAMPA, Fla. - The struggles of drug addiction can be hard to overcome, and it was no different for 29-year-old Joshua Sutphin.
Unfortunately, his addiction had a tragic end. He died of a drug overdose nearly three years ago and his accused drug dealer, Joseph Stillitano, the man prosecutors said gave him the lethal dose, is facing murder charges.
On Tuesday morning, a jury began hearing the evidence against Stillitano.
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Christie Setteducate took the stand. She was engaged to Sutphin, and they were living together at the time of the incident.
File: Joshua Sutphins fiancé, Christie Setteducate, in a Tampa courtroom.
Setteducate said on July 16, 2020, she had a bad feeling when she couldn’t reach Sutphin, who was working from home.
"I was worried I didn’t know what was going on," she said.
Setteducate remembers Sutphin telling her that morning, he may go fishing with a friend. After trying to reach him all afternoon, she headed home and made a gruesome discovery.
She found her fiancé on the kitchen floor, dead of a drug overdose. Drugs and drug paraphernalia were found next to his body.
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Pictured: Joshua Sutphin, who died of an overdose back in 2020.
Prosecutors said there were cell phone text messages between Stillitano and Sutphin about a drug buy the day he died. They also said there were funds transferred by Sutphin to a money app connected to Stillitano.
Prosecutors explained that Sutphin was struggling with drug addiction but was in a treatment program and had just completed it a day before the fatal overdose.
Prosecutor Zoe Fisher said later Stillitano was found driving Sutphin’s car when police pulled him over.
He also had drugs in his pocket.
File: Joseph Stillitano in a Tampa courtroom during his trial.
"Those tiny baggies had a red dice on them the same red dice pattern that are found in the trash can of Josh and Christie‘s home," explained Fisher
The Medical examiner determined Sutphin died from a lethal mix of heroin and fentanyl. However, Hillsborough Public Defender, Mary Dunker, doesn’t think prosecutors can prove the fatal dose came from Stillitano.
Dunker said Sutphin was also buying drugs from other dealers.
"On the days leading up to the drug overdose, Mr. Sutphin was in contact with his old drug dealer someone by the name of David, not Mr. Stillitano," argued Dunker.
The trial is expected to wrap up on Thursday.