Hennepin County authorities charged two Twin Cities men Wednesday with murder for distributing heroin that led to a fatal overdose in Maple Grove in July.
James Marione Butchee, 29, and Anthony Allyn Simons, 22, are each charged with one count of third-degree murder.
The Hennepin County medical examiner's office identified the victim as 22-year-old James Peterson. Police found Peterson's body July 12 with a syringe, tourniquet and piece of paper with heroin residue nearby, according to the criminal complaint. An autopsy later confirmed that he died from a heroin overdose.
Simon told police that he agreed to arrange to buy $50 of heroin from a man later identified as Butchee in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis the night before Peterson was found dead, according to the criminal complaint.
A female friend of Peterson's told investigators that she saw Peterson inject the drugs and begin acting strangely. She said Simon left, but told her to watch Peterson carefully because he was extremely high.
Maple Grove Chief Eric Werner said his office investigated the overdose with the cooperation of the Anoka-Hennepin Narcotics and Violent Crimes Task Force and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. He said it was important to find the person who sold the heroin.
"We can eliminate the source of this, and hopefully we can curb the amount of drugs, and this poison that's coming into our communities," Werner said.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said these charges represent the ninth time in two years that the county has charged people in connection with a drug overdose death.
"Tragically, we see way too much of this in our communities," Freeman said. "People who get hooked on pharmaceutical drugs and other things turn to heroin because it's a cheaper alternative —-- the problem is that heroin is deadly."
Freeman said his office's goal is to send a message to drug distributors.
"These are dealers who make money from the sale of these drugs, and they know that these drugs may kill people," Freeman said. "And the word gets out that if they give drugs to somebody who misuses them and kills them, we're looking for them."
About 132 Hennepin County residents died last year due to opiate overdoses, which include overdoses from both prescription painkillers, methadone and heroin, according to a quarterly drug abuse trends report.