Family heartbroken after involuntary manslaughter conviction overturned in fatal overdose

Chad Baker, 34,died in May 2015 from an overdose. An appeals court overturned the conviction of a man who sold him heroin, saying there was a lack of evidence it cause the overdose (Couresy: Jordan Baker)

NEWARK, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) -- Newark resident Katie Offenburger was looking forward to marrying 34-year old Chad Baker and raising their young daughter together.

Those dreams were shattered in May 2015 when she discovered the father of four on their bathroom floor.

"I knocked on the door, and didn't get an answer, and then I tried to open the door, but I couldn't. So when I pushed, I saw him laying on the floor" Offenburger said.

She said he died a short time later from an overdose.

Forty-year old Thomas Kosto, a man Offenberger said Baker met in a 12-step recovery program, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in July 2017 after being convicted of selling Baker heroin shortly before his death. Prosecutors said it was the first sentence of its kind in Licking County. Kosto appealed the conviction soon after the sentencing phase of the trial.

Court documents obtained by ABC 6/FOX 28 show the fifth district court of appeals overturned the manslaughter charge last week based on lack of evidence. While investigators determined Kosto allegedly provided Heroin to Baker, toxicology reports revealed Kosto had a combination of both heroin and cocaine in his system at the time of his death, which eventually resulted in the overturn of the manslaughter portion of the conviction.

"They told us that 99 percent of appeals get denied, and it was something we didn't have to worry about. Then today, we find about the appeal overturn through social media. That's even worse" Offenburger added.

Offenburger's loved ones say they were surprised by the turn of events.

"I didn't even know that the appeal was going on right now" said Baker's stepfather, Rob Cowerdy.

The family said they're looking into options about it.

"I don't think that a year was long enough for him to understand the process, and to get away from what his life was," Offenburger said.

When contacted Tuesday evening, Kosto's family didn't want to make any comment on the case.

Calls to the Licking County prosecutor weren't returned to determine whether an appeal would be made to The Ohio Supreme Court.

Kosto remains in the Pickaway Correctional Institution, but is expected to be released soon.

Court records show Kosto faces heroin possession charges when he returns to Licking County.

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