DULUTH – Three men involved in a supply chain of fentanyl-laced heroin have been charged with contributing to the October overdose death of a local woman.
Jesse W. Merrill, 29; Seth D. Nelson, 30; and Artist S. Sanders, 40, all of Duluth, were each charged Wednesday in St. Louis County District Court with third-degree aiding and abetting murder and second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter, court documents show.
One of the 41-year-old victim's children called 911 on Oct. 22 after finding her passed out in the bathroom of their apartment in the 1100 block of North Central Avenue in Duluth, police said.
According to court documents:
Police found a hypodermic needle and a fresh puncture wound in the woman's forearm. One of the children at the residence said a man named Jesse had been at the home the past few days. Officers later found Facebook messenger conversations in which the woman asked Merrill to get heroin for her.
Merrill told police that the night before the woman died, Nelson had provided him with heroin. The two went to the woman's place and she came out and sat in their vehicle for a few minutes, where Merrill provided her with the drug, Nelson told authorities. Nelson told police he got the heroin from Sanders that afternoon.
Officers made a controlled purchase from Sanders on the evening of the day the woman died. Though it was sold as heroin, it also field tested positive for fentanyl, the same mixture that caused the woman's death, authorities allege.
"The three arrests are the result of a nearly four-month long investigation by the (Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime) Task Force to hold those accountable who profit off the deadly sale of controlled substances, particularly fentanyl," the Duluth Police Department said in a news release.
Two people have died from opioid overdoses in Duluth so far this year, according to the department.
Those who need help with opioids are encouraged to call the Duluth Police Department's opioid hotline at 218-730-4009.
Staff Writer Brooks Johnson contributed to this report. Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102