By Doug Ireland
---- — BRENTWOOD — A former Windham man will spend up to three years in state prison in a drug case involving the death of a 20-year-old University of New Hampshire student in 2011.
Joseph Ida, 25, of Woburn, Mass., was ordered yesterday by Rockingham Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wageling to serve a year and a half to three years behind bars for violating the terms of his suspended sentence.
Ida, formerly of Bear Hill Road in Windham, pleaded guilty in November 2012 to two felony charges of possession of a controlled drug as part of a plea bargain. He was ordered to spend seven days in jail and to continue to receive drug treatment as part of his sentence.
Ida was arrested after Ellie Morin, a college student and Windham resident, was found dead in his family’s home Dec. 21, 2011. Police and firefighters, some dressed in hazardous materials suits, were called to the home that morning after Morin was found unresponsive.
Investigators later found a small lab in the attic believed to be used to manufacture drugs. They remained at the house well into the night, and seized heroin and diazepam tablets.
It was later determined that Morin died of a drug overdose and Ida was not responsible for her death.
Ida initially was charged with making the hallucinogenic drug Dimethyltryptamine — known as DMT on the street, police said. He was never indicted on that charge.
Ida was arrested again Dec. 16 in Salem on drug and other charges after police received a call about an unconscious person sitting in a truck in parking lot, according to Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten.
Members of the Salem police force testified in court yesterday that Ida appeared disoriented when officers responded to the lot at Shogun Tattoo at 326 S. Broadway.
Officer Nicholas Turner said Ida was stumbling around outside a gold Ford F-150 pickup when he pulled up in a police cruiser.
“It was readily apparent he was out of it,” Turner said.
Police searched Ida and the pickup, finding a drug kit, hypodermic needles and a small amount of heroin.
After he was placed in a holding cell at the Salem police station, Lt. Ronald Peddle testified that he watched on a monitor as Ida transferred a loaded 9mm handgun from his sock to his pants pocket.
“At that point, he bent over and pulled up his left pant leg and produced what was clearly a pistol,” Peddle said.
Moments earlier, Ida had been searching beneath a mattress in the cell.
Officers immediately confronted Ida and confiscated the gun, Peddle said. The gun was stolen in Lewiston, Maine, in 2011, police said.
State forensic lab criminologist Patrick Keough testified that a lab analysis of a brown powdered substance seized during Ida’s arrest confirmed it was heroin.
Prosecutor Lisa Cirulli told Wageling that Ida should serve prison time for violating his suspended sentence and carrying a handgun. Public defender Deanna Campbell admitted her client had suffered a “relapse” and asked that he instead serve a year in the county jail.
“The nature of the allegations are serious,” she said. “He didn’t just relapse. He is engaging in extremely dangerous behavior.”
Cirulli said a year in jail would not serve as deterrent. He had also been convicted of possession of a controlled drug in 2006.
“Sending him back there will teach him nothing from the state’s perspective,” Cirulli said
Wageling agreed to the prison sentence.
“He has clearly crossed the line by having a loaded weapon in jail,” the judge said. “I hope you get back in the saddle and work on your life.”
Ida had been held in lieu of $50,000 cash bail following his arrest in Salem. He now faces possible indictment by a grand jury on the Salem charges.
Ida was charged with felony possession of heroin, being a felon in possession of a firearm, receiving stolen property (the handgun), transportation of drugs in a motor vehicle and carrying a handgun without a license.