WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Drug convict sentenced in fentanyl death

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A Wilson drug dealer will spend two decades in federal prison after prosecutors say he sold fentanyl — a powerful prescription narcotic — to a man who died from the drug.

Chief U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III sentenced 29-year-old Kendrell Arelian Batts to 20 years behind bars followed by three years supervised release. Dever also sentenced 23-year-old Madelin Elizabeth Bass to 3 1/2 years in prison in connection to the case, followed by three years supervised release.

The sentences were handed down earlier this month in a Raleigh courtroom.

Batts pleaded guilty in May to distribution of a quantity of fentanyl causing serious bodily injury or death and aiding and abetting.

Bass pleaded guilty in July to distribution of a quantity of heroin and a quantity of fentanyl.

Fentanyl is synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Wilson authorities have said drug dealers often cut heroin with other drugs including fentanyl. And many users who believe they are buying heroin don’t know they are buying fentanyl, which can lead to overdose deaths. Health officials say fentanyl can be lethal even in small doses.

“The Wilson Police Department, along with our local, state and federal partners, is committed to aggressively pursuing individuals that distribute and sell heroin/fentanyl or any other illegal drugs in our community,” said Wilson Police Chief Thomas Hopkins. “We are sending a clear message that we will not tolerate or hold those responsible blameless for the destruction of lives and families in our community. There are no winners in these types of investigations because so many lives are tragically impacted. We will continue our initiatives and implement sound strategies to address illegal drug activity. Our partnerships are strong, and our goals synonymous in keeping our community safe.”

THE CASE

On March 24, 2017, the Wilson Police Department responded to a drug overdose of a 25-year-old man who was pronounced dead on the scene, according to officials.

The medical examiner’s report indicated the cause of death was fentanyl toxicity, federal officials said.

The investigation identified an eyewitness who said Bass met Batts the day of the overdose at the Jiffy Mart in Wilson to buy heroin, according to prosecutors.

That eyewitness said Bass bought eight bags of “what was marketed as heroin for $160” from Batts for the man who died, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release. Lab testing showed it was actually fentanyl.

After conducting a controlled purchase of heroin with Bass, police conducted a traffic stop on Bass’ vehicle, prosecutors said. She had 16 bags of heroin stamped “Beyonce” in pink lettering.

‘THE FIGHT TO ERADICATE’

Batts and Bass were prosecuted in federal court through the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

“Kendrell Arelian Batts and Madelin Elizabeth Bass are keen illustrations of the opioid crisis that is affecting good communities like Wilson, North Carolina,” U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr. said in a news release. “In 2017, an average of three North Carolina residents died each day from overdoses of heroin and fentanyl. These defendants’ actions contributed to these unnecessary deaths. With the imposition of a 20-year and three-and-a-half-year sentence, the people of Wilson can begin to recover from the effects of his crime. This case represents the type of cases that are aggressively pursued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the fight to eradicate this opioid crisis.”

Higdon also commended the Wilson Police Department and Drug Enforcement Administration for their “expedient and excellent work” in the case.

FEDERAL ENHANCEMENT

This case is the third federal prosecution prompted by a Wilson Police Department investigation that has led to stiffer penalties involving the sale of heroin or fentanyl that leads to an overdose death.

A month ago, 32-year-old Shelton “300” Jamaal Jones was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison after prosecutors say he sold fentanyl to a 39-year-old man who died as a result.

In 2017, Elton Wayne Walston, 66, of Wilson, was convicted of distribution of heroin resulting in the death of 43-year-old Timothy Alan Barkley. Barkley suffered a fatal overdose in March 2015 after Walston sold him heroin, according to federal officials. Walston is currently serving a 27-year-sentence.

Walston was also the first Eastern District of North Carolina prosecution using the drug-distribution-resulting-in-death statutory enhancement. The 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld Walston’s conviction in August.

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