2018-01-25 / Front Page

Death caused by pure fentanyl

One batch, 3 ODs
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Kevin D. Yannett was hoping to unleash a heroin high into his veins on Nov. 22 when he overdosed and later died.

It turns out that heroin wasn’t part of the drug that he injected.

County prosecutors have amended their complaint against a man and woman accused of selling the fatal drug to Yannett, eliminating heroin as a cause of death.

Instead, an unsuspecting Yannett is now believed to have died after injecting pure fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s 10 times more powerful than heroin, into his bloodstream.

“We thought it was heroin with fentanyl, but it turned out to be all fentanyl,” county Prosecutor Joseph T. Hubbell said.

In a relatively new twist to intravenous drug use, fentanyl is being mixed with heroin to increase the “high” felt by users. But due to its deadly potency, it’s usually not injected by itself.

Preston Weaver, 22, and Erin S. Grant, 20, on Tuesday in 86th District Court waived their right to a preliminary examination and now await a pretrial hearing set for Feb. 26. Leelanau County Probate Judge Larry Nelson, who presided over the District Court proceeding, bound their cases over to Circuit Court.

According to the court file, Leelanau County prosecutor Joseph T. Hubbell has changed the substance Weaver and Grant allegedly delivered to Yannett from heroin to fentanyl. The charge, however, remains “delivery of a controlled substance causing death” — a life felony — as both heroin and fentanyl are classified as Schedule II narcotics.

Hubbell said the investigation into Yannett’s death is continuing as charges can be brought against anyone involved in selling the fentanyl that he injected.

“It can go right up the supply chain,” Hubbell said.

“Intent” is not part of the charges, Hubbell added, so Weaver and Grant did not have to know what was in the drug taken by Yannett to be convicted. Indeed, jury instructions show that a prosecutor need only prove that the defendant “knew he or she was delivering a controlled substance” that resulted in a death for a jury to arrive at a guilty verdict.

Days before Yannett’s death, two men in Peshawbestown overdosed on what was believed to be heroin laced with fentanyl. Quick-thinking Sheriff’s deputies revived both men with Narcan.

The drugs taken in the non-fatal overdosed are believed by law enforcement to be from the same batch injected by Yannett.

“The guy who died and the ones who overdosed thought they were getting heroin,” county Sheriff mike Borkovich said. “They thought they were just getting heroin. We are now digging very deeply into this, trying to figure out ... who brought it in, how did they get it out.”

Meanwhile, defense attorneys and Hubbell say that a plea deal is possible.

“We are in serious negotiations in order to resolve this matter,” said attorney Tony Moses of Ithaca, who represents Grant. “That’s one of the main reasons we waived the preliminary exam.”

He was referred by relatives of Grant to represent her, having worked in the Mt. Pleasant area.

Added Hubbell, “We are trying to work for a resolution that brings justice to the victim and proportionally penalizes these young defendants. They don’t have serious criminal records.”

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