Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office Enforcing Strict-Liability Homicide ChargesLast Edited:
When Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner came into office back in March 2017, department officials decided they were going to crack down on drug dealers.
“We would aggressively pursue drug dealers that were killing people as a result of the way they cut their drugs, whether they were cutting it with fentanyl or other deadly substance[s],” said Tyner.
After the strict liability law was put into action, officials with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office have had five indictments already this year, including George Stokes.
On Thursday, February 1st, Stokes was indicted on 29 charges, including three strict-liability homicides for the deaths of Hector Santos, William Ang and Caroline Boothby.
All three deaths occurred this past summer.
“We added a unit to our homicide [and] our major crimes unit, so that any time local police get a report of a drug overdose or [the] EMTs, this unit is called out specifically to investigate it,” said Tyner.
Prosecutors and police are encouraging family members, friends and others involved in drug-related deaths to preserve the scene by keeping everything as it appeared when the person overdosed.
“For so long they didn’t want that stigma to attach to their loved one — that they had died of a drug overdose. It was a very embarrassing situation in our society,” said Tyner. “We’ve decided to embrace that, to encourage people [to realize] it’s more important that we find the person that contributed to your loved one’s loss as opposed to covering up how they died.”
By keeping the crime scene exactly how it occurred at the time of the overdose, investigators are able to find evidence to trace phone calls, retrace steps and hopefully determine who they purchased the drugs from.
“Bottom line is that victims and their families needed some closure and it was no longer acceptable just to have someone overdose from drugs and say, ‘That was their fault,’" said Tyner. "So, instead of blaming the victim, we’re actually aggressively pursuing people that have a very important role in their death as well and those are the drug dealers that are pushing this poison out on the streets.”
According to Tyner, drug dealers can face at least 20 years with 85-percent time served before parole.
“We hoped that it would have a chilling effect on drug dealers and to make them understand they would be facing very substantial consequences for their actions,” said Tyner.
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