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4 overdose death arrests in past month in the Triad

WFMY-TV Greensboro logo WFMY-TV Greensboro 7/15/2022 Megan Allman (WFMY News 2 Digital)

In the past month, Triad law enforcement officials have made several arrests involving drug overdose deaths. In two of the cases, two men have been charged with second-degree murder - one of those men was already in jail for another overdose death. Two women also face felony death by distribution charges. 

Several groups working to end opioid addiction said opioid use has gone way up since the pandemic began, leading to more overdoses.

Susan Stevens founded Tealdrops after a personal tragedy. She said many of those deaths come from fentanyl-laced drugs, which can be easier to trace back to dealers.

"This particular dealer might be cutting it with Drain-o and this one is cutting it with baking soda or some other kind of salt or something," Stevens said.

An offender can be charged with second-degree murder or death by distribution, whichever is more appropriate for a particular case. Greensboro attorney Jason Keith said it's rare to see either of these charges in Guilford County because deciding to take drugs comes down to the personal responsibility of the user. He said these other cases could show a new trend.

"This is a tool that prosecutors are using to place higher bonds, to get larger sentences and to have more meat and potatoes to put in front of a jury for a conviction," Keith said.

Groups working to end opioid addiction aren't sure arresting dealers or distributors is the best solution.

Stevens' daughter died of an overdose in 2018. She said investigators pursued charges against her daughter's dealer, who Stevens said was also an addict.

"I'm conflicted with that. I can't honestly say I want them to or don't want them to," Stevens said. "My heart goes out to them because I know we can't arrest our way out of this."

Randy Abbott also began working to stop the opioid crisis after he lost his daughter in 2015. He said back then, he wanted those who supplied her drugs arrested, now he sees it differently.

"That young lady now is a mom, she's married. She has a job working with at-risk youth on a daily basis and is doing phenomenal things in her community," Abbott said. "Had she gone to prison, that wouldn't have happened."

Another group called GCSTOP has a program that works with people facing drug charges in the hopes of helping them recover after they get out of jail. Leaders said they're also seeing more offenders.

Here's a look at the latest arrests and charges as they were announced, starting with the most recent. 

Surry County 

Surry County deputies charged Chris Wayne Mosley, 50, in the overdose death of Melissa "Shannon" Renee Dublin, 29. 

Dublin was found dead at a house in Lowgap in May 2021. 

After a 13-month investigation, detectives announced on July 15 that they arrested Mosley for providing her with the drugs that killed her. 

Mosley was charged with second-degree murder and is being held under a $300,000 bond. 

Mosley was already being held in jail on a previous second-degree murder charge for the overdose death of Jeremy Franklin Collins III. 

High Point

High Point police announced on July 13 that a Davidson County grand jury indicted Larento Valentino Grady, Jr., 28, of High Point, with second-degree murder and death by distribution in an overdose death. 

In May 2021, police said they found Jacob Fields, 35, dead from a fentanyl overdose.

After more than a year of investigating, detectives said they learned Grady was Fields' supplier for the drug. Grady was arrested in June and received a $500,000 secured bond. 

Randolph County 

Randolph County deputies said on June 21 they arrested Ivey Tatum Elswick, 21, in an overdose death. 

Deputies said they responded to Erik Drive in March where they found someone dead from an overdose. 

Elswick was charged with felony death by distribution. She was placed in jail under a $30,000 secured bond. 

Eden 

In June, Eden police arrested Angel Nicole Howell and charged her in the overdose death of Raquita Leshay, 25. 

Eden police found Leshay dead at a Hampton Inn on S. Van Buren Road on June 17. 

Police charged Howell with felony death by distribution. She was jailed under a $250,000 secured bond.

Difference between second-degree murder and death by distribution

According to North Carolina law, a person can be charged with death by distribution if: 

  • The person unlawfully sells at least one certain controlled substance
  • The controlled substance causes the death of the user
  • The commission of the offense was the proximate cause of the victim's death
  • The person did not act with malice

According to North Carolina law, a person can be charged with second-degree murder if either of the following happens: 

  • The malice necessary to prove second-degree murder is based on an inherently dangerous act or omission...without regard for human life
  • The murder is one that was proximately caused by the unlawful distribution of any opium, opiate, or opioid...and the ingestion of the substance caused the death of the user
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