Minot man loses appeal in drug overdose death conviction

BISMARCK, N.D. – A Minot man currently serving a prison sentence for his role in a teen’s drug overdose death has lost an appeal with the North Dakota State Supreme Court over the amount of restitution he has to pay.

Aaron Bruce pleaded guilty last March to negligent homicide in the July 2015 death of 19-year-old Aidan Vanderhoef. Investigators said Bruce supplied Vanderhoef with drugs and failed to get him medical attention when he overdosed.

The courts ordered Bruce to pay more than $7,100 in restitution for Vanderhoef’s funeral costs, along with the cost of a stolen cell phone and Vanderhoef’s father’s travel costs for court appearances.

Bruce’s attorneys disputed the restitution, arguing life insurance covered the teen’s funeral, and that the father’s travel expenses did not fall under reasonable expenses sustained by a victim. Bruce’s attorneys also said the district court knowingly imposed restitution he could not afford.

The high court disagreed, though, ruling that a life insurance policy did not change whether the cost of the funeral was a result of Bruce’s actions. The court also ruled that Vanderhoef’s father had the right to assert victim’s rights in lieu of his son, and that Bruce could pay off the restitution upon release from prison.