MOUNT HOLLY — A Burlington County drug dealer who bragged that his heroin supply had claimed a life — that of a 15-year-old schoolgirl — was sentenced Thursday to eight years in prison.

Austin Cooper, 22, of Willingboro, pleaded guilty in April to first-degree strict liability for drug-induced death — a charge prosecutors use to go after drug dealers linked to the drugs that caused a fatal overdose.

Investigators say Cooper had delivered 10 packets of heroin to the Marlton home of Madison McDonald, whose father found her passed out the day after Christmas in 2017. Madison was flown to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she died.

Superior Court Judge Philip Haines said Thursday that Cooper "demonstrated a shocking indifference to human life."

Investigators said they found damning evidence on Cooper's phone, including text messages telling friends that he had "caught a body" — slang for killing someone. They also found internet searches for ways "to get a girl addicted to heroin."

“We sadly have grown accustomed to drug overdoses taking the lives of young people, from all walks of life,” Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a statement after the sentence was handed down. “We rarely, however, see someone as young as 15 die this way, which only deepens the tragedy of Madison’s loss.

"I would like to express our admiration for Madison’s father, Stephen, for his courage in fighting through unfathomable grief to stand up for his daughter in court today and throughout the entirety of this case. We wish for healing for all of Madison’s family and friends.

Austin Cooper was sentenced on June 6, 2019, for the crime of providing the heroin that killed a 15-year-old girl. (Burlington County Prosecutor's Office)

In an interview last year with New Jersey 101.5, Stephen McDonald said he only learned that his daughter had tried heroin on the day he found her overdosed on her bed.

"She was a fun-loving little girl. If I had a bad day or whatever, I'd come home and she'd make me smile and laugh and we would joke all the time," he said.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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