Tasha Holley sought justice for her daughter, Kiloisha, who she lost in 2017 to a drug overdose.
In U.S. District Court in Bowling Green on Thursday, Holley opened up about the impact Kiloisha Holley’s death had on her and confronted Damir Zlatovic, who admitted to selling the Opana pill that was then crushed and snorted by Dragan Petrovic and Kiloisha Holley on April 22, 2017.
Holley, 21, of Bowling Green, passed out after taking the drug at Petrovic’s apartment and never regained consciousness. She was pronounced dead the next day.
“I would give my life to have my daughter back,” Tasha Holley said. “I would do anything just to hug my daughter, she was just getting started with her life. ... It’s time to hold (Zlatovic) accountable for that one pill that took one life.”
Zlatovic, 31, of Bowling Green, had pleaded guilty to federal charges of knowingly distributing oxymorphone and possession of firearms while an unlawful user of a controlled substance.
He accepted a plea agreement in which he would not be held criminally responsible for Holley’s death.
On Thursday, Zlatovic was sentenced by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Greg Stivers to 18 months in prison.
Federal prosecutors sought a 10-year prison sentence for Zlatovic.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jo Lawless said the Opana, a powerful semi-synthetic opioid painkiller, was a significant factor in the cause of Holley’s death.
A state medical examiner ruled that Holley’s death was caused by multiple drug intoxication and a toxicology report showed the presence of Opana, Xanax, alcohol and THC in Holley’s system, though Opana was the only drug present above therapeutic levels.
Holley graduated from Warren Central High School with honors in 2013, where she played basketball.
She went on to attend Western Kentucky University, but Tasha Holley said in court Thursday that her daughter had struggled in the last few months of her life with a miscarriage and with the stresses of college.
Zlatovic was charged originally in state court with drug trafficking counts, but the case was dismissed after he was indicted federally.
Prior to being sentenced, Zlatovic said he was affected by a drug addiction at the time. While the case was pending, Zlatovic completed a stint in a rehab facility and has remained sober.
“Addiction hurt me and hurt the people around me,” Zlatovic said. “Going forward, I plan to use the knowledge I have acquired to become a more productive member of society.”
Zlatovic’s wife and the supervisor at the trucking company where he worked as a dispatcher also spoke on his behalf at Thursday’s sentencing hearing.
Attorney Alan Simpson, who represented Zlatovic, requested a sentence of time served or probation, arguing that law enforcement should have held Petrovic accountable for Holley’s death and that a search of Zlatovic’s house yielded little in the way of illegal drugs.
“Damir did sell the pill, but he was not a gun-toting drug dealer and he was not a danger to the community,” Simpson said. “Mr. Zlatovic has realized his addiction was ruining his life and these things have far-reaching consequences.”
Zlatovic had pleaded guilty last year, but withdrew his plea on the day he was set to be originally sentenced.
Had the case gone to trial, federal prosecutors would have attempted to prove that the Opana directly caused Holley’s death, and Zlatovic would have faced at least 20 years in prison had a jury convicted him as charged.
Stivers voiced reluctance at following Lawless’ recommendation of a 10-year sentence, saying that there had been no admissible evidence from a qualified expert to show that, but for taking the Opana, Holley would not have died.
The judge did note, however, that the pill was a “significant factor” in causing the death.
“There is no question that Mr. Zlatovic needs to be punished for selling this pill,” Stivers said. “His sentence needs to deter other people from selling these pills to one of their friends, because these pills can kill you.”