Illinois is dealing with a growing epidemic. More people are dying from drug overdoses than breast cancer.
And here in Illinois, dealers can be charged with homicide but they rarely are. Some families want to know why.
Sydney Schurgen overdosed on ecstasy three years ago. Her stepmother Theresa Almanza described her death as grueling.
Since then, Almanza has been searching for justice. She was trying to get Sydney’s drug dealer charged with drug-induced homicide, which is an Illinois law that has been on the books since 1989 but rarely used until recent years in the middle of a opioid epidemic.
It's a class x felony, and the sentence is 15 to 30 years in prison. It’s defined as, "a person who unlawfully delivers a controlled substance to another which results in their death…"
Almanza, who's also a Chicago police officer, faced an uphill battle trying to get her colleagues to investigate her step-daughter's death.
After months of fighting, the case was made and two defendants are facing drug-induced homicide charges. But her case is the exception.
Former chief of detectives for Chicago police Eugene Roy says a homicide scene can be very different than a drug-induced homicide scene - lack of witnesses, video surveillance and location.
In the past two years, more than 2100 people have overdosed in Cook County. That's more than double the collar counties combined.
Yet in Cook County, 4 people have been charged with DIH. That number is higher in some neighboring counties.
But the state's attorney in Will County says prosecuting these cases takes time.
Still, others believe the class x felony charge is not a deterrent to drug deal, but a deterrent to dial 911 in an emergency.
Lindsay LaSalle with the drug policy alliance says treating this issue criminally is a waste of law enforcement resources.
One of Sydney’s dealers is her cousin, 20-year-old Cynthia Parker. She will be sentenced Tuesday, set to receive a one-year probation.
Her co-defendant is due back in court in March.
Just last fall, Parker was sent back to jail, facing separate felony charges after selling drugs to an undercover officer.
Almanza hopes her story aids others in their fight for justice.