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DECATUR — Prosecutors said Wednesday that the disappearance of crucial witnesses was part of the reason an original charge of drug-induced homicide was dropped against Shady W. Abdallah, who supplied heroin that led to the death of Shawn Maddox of Clinton.

Abdallah, 31, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Macon County Circuit Court on Dec. 19 after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of the unlawful delivery of a controlled substance. 

Macon County State’s Attorney Jay Scott, commenting on the case Wednesday, said two female substance abusers who had been with Maddox during his fatal drug use that day could not be found to testify.

"They just dropped off the face of the Earth," Scott said. 

Prosecutors had presented evidence that Maddox, 48, died in Clinton on March 2, 2016, within a few hours of Abdallah giving him the drug at a meeting in Decatur. An autopsy would show the cause of death as "heroin intoxication." 

Another strike that had weakened the drug-induced homicide charge was proving the actual drugs supplied by Abdallah— rather than, for instance, the amount taken — had killed Maddox, prosecutors said. 

Assistant State’s Attorney Lindsey Shelton, commenting about the case, said it was finally concluded that there was not the evidence to establish Abdallah's heroin as the “proximate cause” of Maddox’s death. "Proximate" is a legal term meaning an event sufficiently related to injury that a court deems the event to have been the cause of that injury.

But in the court sentencing hearing before Judge Thomas Griffith, Shelton had still argued that Abdallah deserved a maximum sentence for his actions; based on his previous offense record, that maximum would have been 30 years.

“It is this defendant’s heroin that killed him (Maddox) on that day, and he should face the consequences of his actions,” she said.

Defense attorney Tiffany Senger argued for an eight-year sentence and, while acknowledging traces of the powerful narcotic fentanyl were in Maddox’s system, said nothing linked that to the heroin supplied by Abdallah.

“We are dealing specifically with the delivery of heroin and heroin alone on one date,” she said.

Abdallah told the court that he was a drug addict, not a dealer, and addicts help each other out when they were in need. Addressing Maddox family members present, he said: “From the bottom of my heart I am sorry that you had to lose such a beautiful person to addiction. If I could take Shawn’s place right now ... I would in a heartbeat.”

Griffith said he did not want the Maddox family to feel the 12-year sentence was meant to devalue the loss of their loved one. But he added: “On balance, I certainly don’t think 30 years can be justified, even though we have suffered the loss of another human being.”

Members of the Maddox family declined comment after the sentencing hearing.

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Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid