Local

Drug-induced homicide cases rise

WOODSTOCK – The year after McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi’s team won its first drug-induced homicide case saw three more cases filed.

Judge Sharon Prather sentenced Chicago drug dealer Carlton Maynor to 18 years in prison in February, about three months after a jury convicted him of providing a 27-year-old McHenry woman the heroin that killed her.

Wade Smith pleaded guilty to delivery of a controlled substance in exchange for a 14-year prison sentence, and two trials are set for this year.

Prosecutors said these relatively rare criminal charges were hard to investigate and prove but were becoming more common as the area’s drug problem grew with its population.

“Unfortunately, the drug problem seems to be escalating, as it is in most areas with growth,” Bianchi said.

The number of fatal heroin-related overdoses in McHenry County almost tripled from 6 in 2007 to 17 in 2008, according to statistics from Coroner Marlene Lantz’s office.

As of Dec. 18, Lantz’s office had finished handling 34 drug overdoses, 15 of which were heroin-related.

Not every fatal drug overdose will turn into a drug-induced homicide case, though.

Witnesses tended to be drug addicts who might have thrown away potential evidence, such as drug packaging, before calling police, said Nichole Owens, chief of Bianchi’s criminal division. They also tended not to cooperate with police initially and could be reluctant to tell police about their drug dealer.

“You need good police work to chase down the witnesses,” Bianchi said. “... It takes a special technique to interrogate successfully a drug addict. They don’t want to be cooperative.”

In Maynor’s case, sheriff’s police had the woman who bought the heroin that the victim ingested set up two more heroin purchases with the same dealer. Police supervised those drug deals before arresting Maynor in June 2008, about nine months after he was paroled from prison for a Cook County drug-dealing case.

All those drug deals happened in Cook County, but Maynor was tried in McHenry County because that’s where the woman died.

“I don’t think it will be the last time we prosecute someone who’s never stepped foot into McHenry County,” Owens said.

But fellow drug users who split the drugs obtained from a drug deal can be charged with drug-induced homicide, too.

If Wade Smith’s case had proceeded to trial, prosecutors said, witnesses would have testified that Smith, Kendrick Vogt, and Vogt’s girlfriend returned items to Toys ‘R’ Us and used that money to buy heroin. The girlfriend would have testified that Smith, 41, of Rockford, later told her that he injected heroin into Vogt. Vogt, 30, was found unresponsive March 23 in his home near Harvard.

Smith disputed the girlfriend’s account but agreed to it for the purposes of the negotiated plea, said his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Richard Behof. Smith’s projected parole date is in July 2016.

Amanda Coots, 27, of Wauconda, allegedly was with Rustin Cawthon, 35, the night he died of a heroin overdose, but she was not accused of administering the drug. Cawthon was found dead June 6 in a McHenry motel. Coots’ case is set for trial April 12.

Meanwhile, James Jurkowski is set for a bench trial Feb. 9 before Judge Joseph Condon. Jurkowski allegedly gave heroin to 37-year-old Mark A. Gouge, who was found unresponsive in January in a car parked at an Algonquin tavern.

In a bench trial, the judge, rather than a jury, determines the defendant’s innocence or guilt.

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