CHEATHAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN)– A shocking 41 people have died from overdoses in Cheatham County so far in 2020, according to the Cheatham County EMS.
Cheatham County drug investigators are working each case as a murder investigation in an effort to combat the overdose pandemic.
Lt. Shannon Heflin of the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office said, “Don’t deal dope in Cheatham County. If you do, then there are consequences.”
Lt. Heflin said his narcotics unit has recently indicted four drug suspects. Three of them have been arrested. One remains at large.
The four people are Chelsea Hardin, Dontarius Peacher, Keith Orange and William Paterno. They were all accused of selling drugs to people who then overdosed and died.
Lt. Heflin said each case has had something in common when it comes to the autopsy report. “We are not finding heroin. We are finding just Fentanyl in their systems.”
In the William Paterno case, Lt. Heflin said they did an undercover sting on the 33-year-old. Once confronted, Paterno confessed and became emotional knowing that he was responsible for someone’s death.
“We brought him into custody he had heroin on him,” Lt. Heflin recalled. “Got a full confession.”
Dontarius Peacher is also charged with second degree murder for selling heroin to a man who died in October of last year. The victim was a recovering heroin addict.
According to the lieutenant, the man contacted Peacher via text and phone calls on the night he died. He told Peacher the product “didn’t taste the same” and that he was “scared and didn’t want to fall out.”
Cheatham County drug agents also charged Chelsea Hardin with second degree murder Sunday evening.
Her boyfriend, Keith Orange is still at large. Like Hardin, he too is wanted for second degree murder.
Lt. Heflin said the dealers are surprised when they are arrested months after the drug deals go down. They are usually charged with a number of serious felonies.
“It [the investigation] takes a lot of time,” said Lt. Heflin. “There are a lot of moving parts to these cases. Once they come together, usually it’s four to five to six months down the road, and we are knocking on someone’s door.”
A conviction on a second degree murder charge can easily result in a 10 year prison sentence.
Drug agents say in the last few months, they’ve been able to obtain second degree murder indictments on seven people who sold drugs that killed.
Cheatham EMS told News 2, as of 8/10/2020, the agency has responded to 116 overdose calls, resulting in 41 deaths. 186 doses of Narcan have been administered to those patients.
Tennessee’s overdose crisis is evolving in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic. First responders and emergency rooms are reporting an increase in overdose cases. News 2 examines the disturbing trend in a special investigation. Read the latest reports here.