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NORFOLK -- The drug past of Dr. Gary Zientek was one reason prosecutors said theyabandoned efforts to seek the death penalty against Kentrell Sanderson.

Sanderson pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing his stepdaughter, 12-year-old Shatierra Sigler, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The commonwealth's attorney's office in Norfolk is now reviewing all of the homicide cases where Zientek performed the autopsy.

13News has learned in his one year here, which began July 2008, Zientek worked took part in 175 autopsies, including 30 homicides.

Zientek's drug past includes three misdemeanor convictions of 'obtaining drugs by fraud' in Henrico County.

His medical license was revoked in 2003 andreinstated in 2007.

Chief Medical Examiner Leah Bush said Zientek's past was never a secret. She said Zientek was always under supervision during autopsies because he was a trainee and called him 'one of the best trainees ever in Tidewater.'

Zientek now works as a medical examiner in Alaska.

'We felt that if the (Virginia)Board of Medicine restored his license and trusted him, there was no reason we shouldn't trust him as well,' Bush said.

Zientek regularly underwent random drug and alcohol screenings and always passed, Bush added.

Defense attorney Michael Fasanaro, who represents defendants in death penalty cases, said Zientek's drug past was a crack in the prosecution's case against Sanderson.

'If you have a crack, as a prosecutor you try and do the best you can with the case and I understand why they did what they did,' Fasanaro said. 'He's been convicted of offenses which attack his credibility.'

Sigler's friends and family are outraged Sanderson will never face death for his crime.

'He can go to jail, stay in there for life, but he took her life, so he should get what he deserves,' Frances Royster said.

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