ANDERSON — Last week’s decision to charge a woman with reckless homicide in the overdose death of a friend is not only a growing practice here in Madison County, but across the country as authorities try to find ways to curb the growing body count from drug overdose deaths.
Prosecutors in Indiana, including the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office, are using existing laws to hold drug dealers and friends accountable when it can be proven they supplied the drugs that led to a fatal overdose as in the case filed against 62-yearold Antonia Wright.
Currently 20 states have drug-induced homicide laws on the books, according to a new study from the Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization highly critical of what they view as a continuation of harsh law enforcement-based policies. Instead, the Drug Policy Alliance promotes new drug policies based on science, compassion, heath and human rights.
“These laws and prosecutions have proliferated despite the absence of any evidence of their effectiveness in reducing drug use or sales or preventing overdose death,” according to an executive summary of the 80-page report.
In fact, they argue, if the goal of these prosecutions is to serve as a deterrent, “as this report illustrates, these efforts exacerbate the very problem they seek to remediate by discouraging people who use drugs from seek help and assistance.”
And there is anecdotal, if not statistical evidence, to support the organization’s argument.
Two weeks before Jalynn Harman was gunned down in Chesterfield, for example, she overdosed and nearly died at a reputed drug house in Randolph County, her mother told The Herald Bulletin. Before seeking medical treatment for the young woman, the people she was with allegedly moved Harman to another location first, which delayed the start of lifesaving treatment, her mother said.
Madison County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Koester said in an interview last week that the objective of the practice isn't so much to serve as a deterrent, but one of holding people responsible for their actions of providing illegal drugs to others.
Vickie Christ, 57, died on Aug. 18 and the coroner determined the cause of death was an overdose of methamphetamine.
Wright was arrested Nov. 6 by Anderson police on charges of reckless homicide and dealing in methamphetamine, Level 5 felonies, and intimidation, a Level 6 felony. She was released from the Madison County Jail after posting $10,000 bond.
A Level 5 felony carries a possible sentence of one to six years and a Level 6 felony carries a possible sentence of six months to 2 1/2 years. If convicted of all charges, Wright could face a sentence of six months to 14 1/2 years.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Wright told police she bought methamphetamine for Christ, who she said had no money to buy drugs, and brought Christ back to her home in the 4300 block of Stratford Drive where they both smoked meth.
Wright told police she nodded off in a chair and Christ was in the bedroom, where she was found unresponsive and not breathing.
On Oct. 15, Lacey Christ contacted police stating Wright had sent a threatening text message that stated Wright knew Christ blamed her for her mother’s death and she was going to kill her.
Wright told police she did threaten to kill Lacey Christ and recently bought a handgun.
Christ’s son, Carl Bovie, said his mother and Wright were friends. He said his mother had an off-and-on again addiction problem, but he wasn’t aware that she was using illegal drugs.
Although in recent practice, law enforcement has treated locations of overdose deaths as health emergencies, Koester said they are likely to be treated as crime scenes moving forward to bring more prosecutions to the county's judiciary.