Deaths remain suspicious

WHEELING — Police are awaiting reports from the state medical examiner’s office to determine if two women found dead in a Wheeling Island apartment died of overdosing on legal drugs.

If the toxicology results confirm what police said may be the case, Jodeci Bush and Kayla Mills would be the fifth and sixth drug overdose deaths in the city since January. In 2017, Wheeling had six known drug overdose deaths all year.

“I can’t speculate on their deaths,” said Wheeling police Detective Gregg McKenzie. “We have to wait on the medical examiner’s reports. If they did die as a result of drugs, that would bring the total to six deaths in six months and this is only June. That’s not a good sign.”

Bush, 21, and Mills, 24, were found dead at about 2 p.m. Tuesday in an apartment building at the corner of North Penn and Maryland streets on Wheeling Island. Wheeling Fire Department paramedics attempted to revive the women. All city fire department ambulances carry Narcan, a drug that can reverse the effects of opioids and restore breathing in an overdose victim.

McKenzie said the women had been dead for at least several hours when responders arrived, but they do not have an exact time of death. Police said they found evidence of drug use in the residence.

The victims had multiple addresses, including Martins Ferry, Bridgeport and Wheeling, according to McKenzie.

“We know who they are,” he said. “We’ve dealt with them before.”

The detective said drug overdoses in Wheeling are trending upward. He said while heroin laced with fentanyl is common, methamphetamine and crack cocaine are still popular with drug users. Fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds, such as carfentanil and acetyl fentanyl, are highly potent synthetic opioids.

“They are always coming out with new stuff,” McKenzie said. “We’re not sure if there is a bad batch of heroin out there, but the makers of these drugs are mixing heroin with fentanyl, and some people aren’t able to take that.”

McKenzie said safety forces responded to three or four calls regarding drug overdoses in one day this week. He said some law enforcement departments are charging overdose victims with drug possession. However Wheeling police “haven’t come to that point.”

He said it’s frustrating because the officers are seeing the same people multiple times. One local resident overdosed and was revived three times last month. Police and paramedics are at risk when fentanyl enters the picture.

Ohio County Prosecutor Scott Smith said police investigate overdose cases, especially those that result in a death, in an effort to find the supplier. Overdose victims who survive often are not charged because it is a case of simple possession, a very minor charge.

“We certainly listen to law enforcement investigating a case and what their advice would be,” Smith said. “We will prosecute the right case and go after whoever provided the drugs. However, a junkie is not a credible witness.”

McKenzie said first responders never know what they will encounter on a drug overdose call.

“I just wish the people making the heroin would put that much energy and effort into something positive,” McKenzie said. “It would be good for all of us.”