Pennsylvania Teen Who Inspired Armed Vigilante Rescue Mission Dies Of Overdose

Pennsylvania Teen Who Inspired Armed Vigilante Rescue Mission Dies Of Overdose

By Keri Blakinger 01/30/17

Last year, the vigilante team was arrested on their way to "extract" the teen from a so-called drug den.

Image: 
Jenea Patterson
Jenea Patterson Photo via YouTube

The teenager who three armed vigilantes set out to save last summer during an ill-fated trip through the Holland Tunnel has died of an apparent drug overdose, according to media reports.

“This was a baby. She was 18. But she’s a baby,” Jenea Patterson’s grieving father told the Citizen’s Voice. The Luzerne County coroner has not yet released an official cause of death, despite the announcement by the girl’s father.

Seven months before the Wilkes-Barre teen’s death, a trio of Pennsylvanians in a monster truck gained instant notoriety when they were collared with a cache of weapons en route to a Brooklyn "drug den," where they planned to rescue Patterson.

When police stopped 30-year-old Kimberly Arendt, 53-year-old Dean Smith, and 50-year-old John Cramsey for a cracked windshield, they found loaded handguns, a shotgun, an assault rifle, knives, and 2,000 rounds of ammo, the New York Daily News reported at the time.

The trio had set out for Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood after Arendt—the teen’s former drug counselor—said Patterson called her for help. The following day, Cramsey posted on Facebook that he was headed to the city to “do an extraction” from a Brooklyn hotel room. “I’m there,” Smith wrote in response.

Just before heading into the tunnel, Cramsey—who had become an active anti-heroin warrior after his own daughter’s overdose death—called a fellow member of the “Enough is Enough” Facebook group and asked her to start arranging for Patterson to get into a detox or rehab.

A few minutes later, Port Authority police pulled over the gaudy neon green monster truck emblazoned with the name of a Pennsylvania shooting range Cramsey owned.

After his arrest, Cramsey said that he’d never intended to bring guns along on the “extraction” and that he’d simply forgotten to remove the weapons from his work truck before heading through New Jersey to New York City, according to NJ.com. Although the guns were legally registered in Pennsylvania, it is still illegal to transport them through the Garden State.

Upon hearing the news of Patterson’s overdose, Cramsey framed it as justification for his actions last June. “My heart breaks as if this was my own daughter. Out of all the kids I have helped, for the first time, one that reached out, I couldn’t save. I cried all day,” he said Friday. “Had I been able to reach her, would she still be alive? That’s going to haunt me the rest of my life.”

Patterson’s death came after a difficult couple of years marked by at least two troubling incidents that made the news.

A year before the would-be rescuers set out to save her, Patterson was at the center of a 24-hour Amber Alert, according to The Scranton Times-Tribune. The short July 2015 search for the teen started after her ex-boyfriend, Walter Lewis, kidnapped her at gunpoint.

Patterson refused to testify against Lewis, saying she still loved him, and authorities ultimately dropped the kidnapping charge. Lewis was sentenced this month to 10-20 years in prison, after pleading guilty to simple assault and a slew of other charges.

All three of the arrested vigilantes in the 2016 Holland Tunnel stop pleaded not guilty in October and are awaiting trial, according to Reuters.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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