So far this year, the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office has received 24 reports of overdose. Of those 24 reports, 13 resulted in death investigations. Those investigations indicated that fentanyl was a major contributor to the deaths.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to heroin but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl can come in several different forms. The Sheriff’s Office has seized it in both powder and pill form. Fentanyl is often used for counterfeiting of prescription medications sold on the black market. Our investigations have revealed that fentanyl overdoses have occurred when the person consumed as little as half a pill containing fentanyl.
In June, two of the reported deaths were believed to be the direct result of fentanyl overdose. The first victim was Timothy Donald Hoyle. Timothy was 34 years old. He died from a fentanyl overdose on June 3rd. The second victim was Jordan Alexander Jamison, 24 years old, who died from a fentanyl overdose on June 9th.
Recognizing that fentanyl was the leading cause of overdose deaths in Cleveland County, the Sheriff’s Office formed a task force to aggressively investigate all overdose deaths. The task force was organized utilizing four investigators from the Narcotics division, four investigators from the Criminal Investigations division, and one Assistant District attorney. The task force worked closely with the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office in each reported case.
The following arrests came after an extensive five-month investigation:
The suspect in Timothy Hoyle’s case is Amanda Pruitt of 1005 Caldwell Rd., Blacksburg, South Carolina and the suspect in Alex Jamison’s case is Quintel Malik Houser of 504 S. Washington St., Shelby. Both suspects were charged with Death by Distribution (N.C.G.S. 14-18.4), a North Carolina law that was enacted in December 2019. Death by Distribution is when a person illegally sells or delivers a controlled substance to someone directly causing the persons death.
These investigations are extremely complex and often require the seizure of physical evidence for successful prosecution of the offenders. This is the first time this crime has been charged in Cleveland County, and it will be used in the future when all the elements have been met for those who distribute illegal narcotics resulting in a death.
Sheriff Alan Norman said: “Our hearts go out to the families of overdose victims and we will continue to aggressively investigate all overdose deaths. If you distribute drugs in Cleveland County and it leads to a death we will be coming for you.”