A Tri-City chemist told a federal judge Thursday that when he mailed a psychedelic drug to a college friend in 2013, he never meant for it to play a role in the death of the man’s wife.
“I don’t have much to say. I’d just like to say I have deep feelings of remorse for the pain and tragedy that I caused,” said Chad M. Renzelman. “I am prepared to take whatever sentence I (get), and I will fully deserve it based on my actions.”
Renzelman, 35, of Kennewick, was sentenced to eight months in prison and one year of supervised release. He won’t have to serve any more time behind bars since he’s already done eight months and one week.
Last summer, Renzelman pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Richland to one felony count of using a communications facility to distribute a controlled substance.
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The drug was 25B-NBOMe, or N-(2-Methoxybenzyl)-4-bromo-2, 5-dimethoxyphenethylamine. It was not on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances at the time, but has since been added.
“I think you recognize the incredible mistake this was,” said Judge Sal Mendoza Jr. “But you’re the one who’s having to live with those things, and of course now you are a felon.”
Mendoza noted that Renzelman — who has master’s degrees in chemistry and biochemistry — likely will never again practice in his field and must find a new career path.
At the time of his arrest, Renzelman had worked with Richland-based Energy Northwest in the company’s environmental sciences department.
On Feb. 26, 2013, he placed eight hits of a hallucinogenic drug — which mimic the effects of LSD — into a greeting card and sent them through the Postal Service.
His friend, Todd A. Honaker of West Virginia, was purchasing the drug as an anniversary gift.
The drug was 25B-NBOMe, or N-(2-Methoxybenzyl)-4-bromo-2, 5-dimethoxyphenethylamine. It was not on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances at the time, but has since been added. The DEA lists it under street names N-Bomb and Smiles.
Renzelman, who had materials in his home to make the drug, claimed he was not aware of the Federal Analogue Act, which allows any chemical “substantially similar” to a controlled substance to be listed.
However, he did acknowledge that he knew the strips were intended for human consumption.
The anniversary card included instructions on how to take the drug and the purchase price. He also offered a reduced cost if Honaker wanted to purchase quantities of 100 or more doses for resale, according to court documents.
Honaker and his wife, Renee, 30, took two hits each on March 1, 2013, before she fell to the floor and began convulsing.
Honaker initially claimed that Renee had taken her regular medicine and drank a little wine that evening, but once in custody admitted they had used the powerful psychedelic, documents said.
Renee Honaker died at a Roane County hospital.
Todd Honaker pleaded guilty two years ago to a misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in jail.
Renzelman initially was charged with murder and delivery of a controlled substance in West Virginia, but that case ended up being dropped.
His life has turned around for the better.
Defense attorney Alison Guernsey
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Seal said Thursday that because of the volume of different drugs in Renee Honaker’s system, medical experts weren’t able to tell if Renzelman’s drug killed her.
A DEA chemist has asked to talk to Renzelman about the actual substance he made and sent to his friend, Seal said. Renzelman has agreed to the meeting, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Renzelman had faced up to one year and two months in federal prison, but Seal and defense attorney Alison Guernsey recommended the sentence at the bottom of the range.
Renzelman lives with his parents and has been the primary caregiver for his ailing father, Guernsey said.
He has learned a “huge lesson” from his actions. He’s been sober for more than a year and “his life has turned around for the better,” she added.