Overdose deaths down in Howard County

Written on 05/23/2024

Also, Mississippi man arrested in Kokomo on Oklahoma murder charge

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The Howard County Coroner’s Office investigated 51 deaths in the first quarter of 2024, ending on March 31. Of those, 37 cases were determined to be due to natural causes. There were four suicides and 10 accidental deaths. The coroner’s office reviewed 21 additional direct release cases.

Of the 10 accidental deaths, four were due to drug overdose, three were fall-related injuries, two were due to weather exposure, and one was due to aspiration resulting in choking. Of the four confirmed overdose cases, one involved Fentanyl, two involved methamphetamine, one involved cocaine, and one was due to Protonitazene.

The total number of drug overdoses for the first quarter of 2024 is seven less than the first quarter of 2023.

“This is a welcomed improvement over years past but reflects just the first quarter of 2023,” said Howard County Coroner Dr. Steven J. Seele. “Howard County has come more in line with the state averages for overdose deaths over the year.”

Protonitazene is a novel synthetic opioid substance. It is approximately three times more potent than Fentanyl. It was first found in the United States in May 2021, and is one of several narcotics categorized as “Nitazene” drugs.

“They are not controlled substances and have no approval for medical use,” said Seele. “On the street in some areas, it has been sold under the disguise of Ketamine, which is a dissociative anesthetic used in the medical setting and is a Schedule III controlled substance but is not an opioid.”

Drug overdose deaths continue to be a major problem in the United States, Seele said. A major portion of overdose deaths are attributable to synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl. However, the potential abuse of nitazene compounds is very significant given the fact that they can be several times more potent than heroin and Fentanyl.

“Don’t trust a drug dealer,” said Seele. “They are not your friends and do not have your best interest at heart, only your wallet.”

Of the 51 cases investigated in the first quarter of 2024, there were 20 autopsies conducted and 21 toxicology studies done at a total cost of $50,948 to Howard County. Toxicology testing for suspected drug overdose cases presently is paid by a grant through the Indiana State Department of Health. All autopsies ordered by the coroner are conducted by a board-certified forensic pathologist.

Mississippi man arrested in Kokomo on Oklahoma murder charge

On May 22, at approximately 10 a.m., the Kokomo Police Department executed a search warrant at 1116 E. Taylor Street. This warrant was issued for the residence to locate a wanted person identified as 31-year-old Demarcus Williams, formerly of Granada, Miss.

Since May 1, Kokomo Police criminal investigators worked with U.S. Marshals from Indiana and Oklahoma in attempt to locate Williams. Investigators were able to confirm Demarcus Williams was inside the residence of 1116 E. Taylor St. The Kokomo Police Department SWAT Team and Negotiations Team converged on the residence. Williams surrendered without incident.

Williams was wanted out of Okfuskee County, Okla., for Murder in the First Degree, Conspiracy, and Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon. He was transported and released to the Howard County Criminal Justice Center. The Kokomo Police Department was assisted by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, U.S. Marshal Service, and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations. 

This case is under investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations. If anyone has additional information pertaining to this case, you can contact Captain Bruce Rood at 765-456-7332. You can always report tips anonymously by downloading the "Kokomo PD" mobile app from the iOS or Google Play stores. You can also text a tip to us by texting TIPKPD, then a space, and they your tip, and send it to 847411. 

All defendants are innocent t until proven guilty in a court of law.