Murder charge in fentanyl death 1st for Jacksonville

Florida medical examiners found First Coast had most fentanyl deaths in 2017

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A grand jury indicted a man on a charge of first-degree murder Thursday in the death of a man from a fentanyl overdose -- the first murder indictment in the Fourth Judicial Circuit using a law passed last year by the Florida Legislature.

Fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin and it only takes a few grains of the opioid to kill a person.

Deonte Wadley, 23, who has a dozen arrests since he turned 18, has been in jail since September after he was arrested by officers responding to a fight at Roosevelt Gardens Apartments. Officers said they found crack cocaine hidden in his boxer shorts and he was trying to swallow a bag of powder cocaine.

A month earlier, he was charged with selling heroin within 1,000 feet of a school.

After Thursday's indictment, Wadley was rebooked on one count of murder in the August 2018 death of Timothy Sexton.

Sexton was hospitalized Aug. 5, 2018, when he was found unconscious and unresponsive in a vehicle parked at his Arlington home. His co-worker said Sexton met with "Blackboy" around midnight at a gas station on the Northside the night before and returned with two pills. When the co-worker awoke that morning, the windows of the vehicle were fogged up and he couldn't wake up Sexton, so he called 911. 

Sexton was taken to Memorial Hospital and reported in critical condition, but homicide detectives were notified because he was not expected to recover. The date of his death was not in the police report obtained by News4Jax.

Alfredo Reyes is the person who found Sexton unresponsive in a car and called for help. Reyes told News4Jax that Sexton was a good guy who had just moved to Florida two weeks ago to take a new job.

"He was young, eager to learn," Reyes said. "I was his supervisor. He always wanted to more and always wanted to do 120 percent and he was eager to learn more job duties. He was a real good family man, as well."

Reyes said Sexton had one child with his girlfriend and another was on the way. 

"Fentanyl-related overdose deaths remain an issue for all parts of our community,” State Attorney Melissa Nelson said in a statement. "The law was expanded to provide prosecutors another tool in this fight and we will continue to aggressively prosecute these tragic cases."

According to the most recent Medical Examiners Commission Drug Report, District Four, which is comprised of Clay, Columbia, Duval, Nassau and Hamilton counties, led all of Florida with 370 fentanyl-related deaths in 2017. The West Palm Beach area (District 15) was second with 285 and the Fort Lauderdale area (District 17) was third with 244.

In District Four, 302 of the 370 deaths were directly caused by fentanyl, according to the report.

Law enforcement and lawmakers hope a murder charge will deter drug dealers. 

While the Wadley first-degree murder charge is breaking new ground for state prosecutors, it's not the first time authorities have pursued drug dealers for murder through the drugs they sold.

Three years after Darla Thiel's body was found on Windsor Parke Golf Club Golf Course in July 2015, Joshua Paul Smith was sentenced to 30 years and Otis Thomas was sentenced to 80 months in federal prison for their actions leading to Thiel's death. 

In May 2017, Trumaine Lucky Muller was indicted for first-degree murder in Clay County after selling a deadly dose to 18-year-old Ariell Brundige. The State Attorneys Office charged him initially with murder, but that charge was dropped when his case was moved to federal court. Muller was found guilty of distributing heroin and fentanyl, intention to sell and possessing a firearm. 

Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.