Law enforcement in Sumner County is upping the ante when it comes to suspected drug dealers and now working to charge them with murder for selling fatal doses.
After getting clean for nearly five years, Philip Dobbler suffered a relapse in 2018 and used heroin again.
The 28-year-old father, who worked in HVAC, overdosed and died in Gallatin on May 13 of that year.
Dobbler’s fiancée, Paige Davis described him as the type of guy who “looked out for everybody else before himself.” She remembers him as a devoted father who took her own son under his wing.
“He was not a drug addict,” Davis told News 2′s Josh Breslow. “He was not. He just made a bad choice.”
Gallatin police allege Brandon Flatford sold Dobbler a form of fentanyl-laced heroin, and that the drug played a role in killing him.
“He wasn’t aware of what he was buying, and it cost him his life,” Davis said.
Earlier this month, investigators in Sumner County charged Flatford with second-degree murder in Dobbler’s death.
“I know Philip made the choice to use it. I get that,” Davis explained. “On the other hand, you have the drug dealer that is selling something that is laced with deadly fentanyl, and you can’t keep letting someone do that to families, and have people hurting as bad as we have. It’s not fair.”
The case against Brandon Flatford is one of three active cases in Sumner County where a suspected drug dealer is charged with second-degree murder for a fatal overdose involving fentanyl, according to Assistant District Attorney Ron Blanton.
“These dealers are just kind of putting the nail in the coffin of these people when they sell them this fentanyl-laced heroin,” Blanton said. “They take it, and within a matter of minutes, they’re dead.“
Blanton identified the suspects in the other cases as Abrey Burton and Robert Gosey.
“The fentanyl has a very quick reaction time, and they smother to death, basically,“ Blanton added. “A lot of times, we find a deceased individual with a needle still in their arm. It’s that quick.“
Blanton’s office has aggressively pursued drug dealers for about two years.
“These individuals are being taken advantage of,” Blanton explained. “Their families are ravaged by this terrible drug, and the law provides that we can seek a second-degree murder charge for those individuals who provide fentanyl that leads to approximate cause of somebody’s death.”
A second-degree murder conviction carries a sentence of 15 to 40 years behind bars.
News 2 is investigating the impact of fentanyl across Middle Tennessee. We have special reports all day Thursday in every newscast. You can also join in on the discussion during a live town hall meeting airing at 6:30 p.m. on News 2.