Hamilton County prosecutors taking on more fatal drug overdose cases

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HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) – Investigators said Justin Domino supplied drugs to a person who ended up dying.

Now, he faces a second degree murder charge.

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“It could be as simple as you give me heroin or schedule one or two drug and I overdose and the reason I overdose and die is because the drugs you gave me, that under Tennessee law would be a second degree murder. You would be charged since you distributed it to me,” Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston said.

Domino is the latest arrest connected to a fatal overdose in Hamilton County.

In June, James Shepheard was arrested for second degree murder after being accused of passing off heroin to a woman who overdosed and died.

That same month, that same month, Eric Williams, Jr. was arrested, also for second degree murder.

Investigators in that case said he sold meth to a person who died from overdosing on the drug.

Pinkston said they’re taking on more cases involving fatal drug overdoes.

“Two-fold, there’s probably just a, as everyone knows there’s an increase in opioids and opioid overdoses, and then the law allows someone to be prosecuted for murder if they supply another one with a scheduled one and two drug and they lead to their death,” Pinkston said.

Tyler Hillian’s life was taken in 2017.

The Medical Examiner’s Report said Hillian died from a lethal amount of Fentanyl in his system.

This June, Sabrena Laquatra pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years behind bars in his overdose.

According to the organization Drug Policy Alliance, Tennessee is one of 20 states with drug-induced homicide laws.

“It’s often hard to prove that connection,” Pinkston said. “And you’re seeing these people die from a combination of heroin, fentanyl, and all kinds of stuff and sometimes it’s hard for the medical examiner to say why an individual died.”

Whether going after drug dealers with murder charges will put a dent in combating the overdoses seen locally, Pinkston said it’s too early to tell.

“If we continue to prosecute and it helps reduce overdose deaths or people who want to distribute those types of drugs then hopefully that’s a win-win for everybody,” Pinkston said.

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