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Mother: 2 charged in daughter's overdose death 'just looking for money'

Darla Thiel, 22, died of overdose from cocaine laced with heroin

Darla Thiel (provided by family)
Darla Thiel (provided by family)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After two men were federally indicted in her daughter's 2015 drug overdose death, a Jacksonville mother told News4Jax that she is grateful to the agents and detectives who never forgot her daughter's case.

In January, a grand jury indicted Otis Thomas and Joshua Smith on conspiracy charges associated with the death of Darla Thiel, who was found dead at the Windsor Parke Golf Club in July 2015. 

Smith and Thomas are both charged with distribution of cocaine and heroin. Smith is also charged with providing Thiel with the drugs that proved fatal. 

According to court records, Smith is scheduled back in federal court in early April. Thomas does not have a date set right now for his next hearing. 

Thiel’s mother, Donna Thiel, said she hopes the men are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to prevent another person from dying the way her daughter did.

Thiel said her daughter had four brothers, who have suffered “indescribable pain” at the loss of their only sister. She said Darla, 22, was studying to be a surgical tech but wanted to be a veterinarian and had plans to start a business with a cousin.

She admitted that her daughter, who was also an artist, struggled with substance abuse, but she said that dealers also search out people in recovery and offer them free “product” to try to “gain a customer base.”

“They do not care what happens to the person,” Thiel said. “They are just looking for money.”

Booking photos of Joshua Smith and Otis Thomas
Booking photos of Joshua Smith and Otis Thomas

Darla Thiel was found dead of an apparent overdose in July 2015, and last May, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided an apartment in a complex near the golf club where she was found.

“We're seeing more and more, not only here, but all across the country, that when drugs are sold and they're laced with some sort of extra chemical -- in this case heroin -- in other cases fentanyl, then the federal government has been picking up those prosecutions and charging people,” said attorney Gene Nichols, who is not connected to the case. “I think we will begin to see more and more as to why these two have gotten prosecuted in federal court and why their state court cases for some reason have gone away.”

Donna Thiel commended the DEA agents and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detectives for “never forgetting that my daughter was a person first and foremost.”

She said her daughter was real and down-to-earth and stood up for what she believed in. 

“Her smile and personality made you always feel comfortable around her,” Thiel said. “Darla was an amazing friend to many, and had, at times, given the shirt off her back to her friends.”

Thiel said she encourages other parents who have children dealing with substance abuse issues to never give up.

“Tough love, in my opinion, does not work,” Thiel said. “As long as your child is breathing, there still is hope. Never give up. Try everything. Try anything. But keep trying.”