Accused drug dealer charged with murder in overdose death

Indictment is first of its kind in Flagler County

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – A Bunnell man accused of trafficking drugs is charged with first-degree murder in a woman's overdose death, authorities said.

The indictment of 34-year-old Joseph Colon is the first of its kind in Flagler County, Sheriff Rick Staly and Seventh Judicial Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza announced Wednesday. 

Investigators learned Colon was captured on surveillance video about 11:30 a.m. Oct. 28 entering 23-year-old Savannah DeAngelis' Palm Coast subdivision. Witnesses also told detectives that they saw DeAngelis run outside of  her home on Front Street and take something from a man driving a black Nissan.

About noon that day, deputies responded to a possible overdose at the Front Street home after investigators said DeAngelis' father found her unconscious on the bathroom floor. Detectives said they found a syringe, an empty baggie and another baggie containing a substance.

According to the charging affidavit, the substance inside the second baggie was heroin mixed with fentanyl.

DeAngelis was taken to Florida Hospital Flagler and was placed on life support. Deputies said she died nearly two weeks later. 

"She had a strong personality," said her mother, Renee DeAngelis. "We always tell everybody she was hilarious. She was just so funny and we just miss that so much."

On Nov. 6, deputies said, Colon was arrested during a traffic stop and charged with trafficking in hydromorphone; possession of heroin, crack cocaine and Alparazolam with intent to distribute; possession of oxycodone; and driving with a suspended license. He was booked into the Flagler County jail, where he has remained.

Several months later, a grand jury on Tuesday indicted Colon on a charge of first-degree murder in DeAngelis' overdose death.

DeAngelis' family members told News4Jax that she had been battling with addiction for years and had been getting help.

"She had been clean. Then she got in trouble again and she was in jail, and she was clean for a while. Then we were waiting for this bed to be available in rehab," said her sister, Christina DeAngelis. "I never would have thought, in this transition period, that would happen."

They said they feel better knowing Colon won't be able to hurt anyone else, but they're still coping with her death.

Charles, Christina, and Renee DeAngeli; State Attorney R.J. Larizza; and Sheriff Rick Staly (Photo courtesy: Flagler County Sheriff's Office)

"It's just kind of relieving, I guess, for our family, in a way, to know that Savannah's going to get her justice," Christina DeAngelis said. "I just miss our conversations and just our little inside jokes that nobody ever really understood but us. I miss how much she loved my son. She loved him so, so much. I miss watching them together."

Florida State Statute 782.04 was amended on Oct. 1, allowing drug dealers to be charged with murder if their drug dealing results in a death. This is the first case of its kind in Flagler County

“In 2017, I directed that our agency investigate all overdoses in the hopes of identifying the poison
peddlers,” Staly said during a news conference Wednesday. “I also directed that all overdose deaths be investigated as a murder investigation. I hope this arrest helps bring justice to the family."

According to the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, nine people, including DeAngelis, have died from overdose in 2017.

VIDEO: Mother hopes daughter's death opens eyes of other parents

"Young people are so good at hiding it and keeping it a secret," Renee DeAngelis said. "There has to be ways that we can find out as parents and stop it before it progresses."

Renee DeAngelis said she hopes her daughter's death opens the eyes of other parents. 

"Don’t be afraid to be a parent. Don’t be afraid to investigate your children’s lives. Don’t be afraid to invade their privacy," she said. "Because it’s better to save their life along the line than try too much to be their friend.”

The mother said her daughter was an organ donor and, after she died, was able to save five lives with the organs she donated.

Colon remains in the Flagler County jail, where he's being held without bond. 

There is a similar case pending in Clay County. Trumaine Muller is charged with murder in the overdose death of Ariell Brundige. Muller is being held without bond, and his next pretrial hearing will Monday. 

About the Author:

Corley Peel is a Texas native and Texas Tech graduate who covered big stories in Joplin, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jacksonville, Florida before returning to the Lone Star State. When not reporting, Corley enjoys hot yoga, Tech Football, and finding the best tacos in town.