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Dealer Who Left Friend to Die of Overdose Gets 6 to 15 Years

April 20, 2018

Contact: Thomas C. Gannon, 215.348.6461, tcgannon@buckscounty.org

Robert Sykes
         Robert Sykes

A heroin dealer who let a friend die of a drug overdose in a Bensalem hotel room without calling 911 was sentenced today to serve six to 15 years in state prison.

Robert Sykes, 26, of Trevose, was sentenced in Bucks County Common Pleas Court after pleading guilty to charges of possession with intent to deliver fentanyl, delivery of fentanyl, involuntary manslaughter, recklessly endangering another person and illegal use of a communication facility.

Sykes was arrested Dec. 4, 2016, shortly after his friend, Matthew Dunn, was found dead of an overdose inside a room Sykes had rented at the Knights Inn, 2707 Old Lincoln Highway.

Dunn, of Philadelphia, had turned 27 two days earlier, and Sykes had booked the room as a place to celebrate his birthday. Instead, Dunn overdosed and died after snorting fentanyl that Sykes had given him.

Sykes and a third man who was in the room tried unsuccessfully to revive Dunn with CPR, but never called for help before leaving the hotel around 1 p.m. Police arrested Sykes about a half-mile away, with 81 packets of fentanyl still stuffed inside his pants.

“You were in a hotel room with two of your friends, and you let one of them die. It’s really that simple,” Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr. told Sykes. “You left an ill, overdosing, dying young man alone in a hotel room, when all you had to do was call 911.”

Deputy District Attorney Thomas C. Gannon told Bateman that Sykes had used his phone to record his clumsy, ill-fated efforts to revive Dunn, apparently to show his friend afterward. Coughing, slapping and vomiting sounds could be heard on the recording, Gannon said, and at one point Sykes is heard saying, “Dunn [expletive] dog. It two days from your [expletive] birthday and this what I do for you. You’re about to die … ”

The recordings were made more than five hours before Sykes left the room, the investigation found.

Sykes told investigators that he gave Dunn one or two packets of drugs for free “because it was his birthday.” He did so, Gannon said, despite knowing that Dunn was not a regular heroin user, that the batch of drugs had already caused another user to overdose, and that it contained fentanyl because of its light color.

“I gave him the dope. I left him there. It was all my fault,” Sykes told police, according to Gannon.

Sykes was not charged with the more serious crime of drug delivery resulting in death because an autopsy showed that Dunn had multiple drugs, including toxic levels of cocaine, in his system when he died.

“He was my best friend,” Sykes told Bateman, eliciting sarcastic laughs from members of Dunn’s family.

“I want to apologize and say how sorry I am. I never meant for any of this to happen. We had planned for weeks to meet up for his birthday and things just got out of hand,” Sykes said. “I didn’t do what I should have done … I was there for hours, trying to bring him back. I barely remember that night. Everything that Matt was on that night, I was on, too.”

Sykes claimed that he didn’t call 911 in part because he had drugs on him, and in part because Dunn was on probation, having recently been released from prison.

“I just want you to know that I’m not the same person I was back in December 2016 …. I was a really [crappy] friend,” Sykes said, adding that Dunn never would have let him die had the tables been turned.

In a statement read aloud in court, Dunn’s family said it was “impossible for us to put into words what this loss has done to us. The hardest part of all is knowing that if Mr. Sykes had treated Matt the same way Matt treated other people, and had the same compassion and sensitive heart that Matt did, he would have taken action at a point that medical assistance could have made a difference, rather than leaving him alone in a hotel room to be discovered by someone else.”

In a separate statement, also read in court by a victim assistance worker, Dunn’s brother Nick called it “amazing that someone who considered Matt one of his closest and best friends would be the one to choose, and therefore prefer, Matt’s death over risking his way of life…”

Nick Dunn noted that Sykes had posted on his Facebook page early in 2016 that Matthew Dunn was the only person he felt he could talk to. “Well, Mr. Sykes,” his statement said, “now you have nobody, and you have nobody but yourself to blame.”

Bateman said Sykes not only helped cause his friend’s death, but also endangered the community by selling heroin and fentanyl.

“You are a drug dealer, plain and simple,” he said.

The judge sentenced Sykes to serve five to 10 year for possession with intent to deliver fentanyl, a consecutive one to five years for involuntary manslaughter, and a concurrent 10 years of probation for the delivery of fentanyl to Dunn.

“It’s impossible for me to understand how you just left him,” the judge said. “You left him there like he was a piece of trash that you left behind when you were done using it, for someone else to clean up.”

The case was investigated by the Bensalem Township Police Department.


Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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