GEORGETOWN — A new county-wide initiative to charge drug dealers in overdose deaths has produced its first guilty verdict.
Kevin Blake Tucker, 22, of Georgetown, was sentenced to four years in the Ohio Department of Corrections after he accepted a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony. With credit for time served in the Brown County Adult Detention Center, Tucker will remain locked up until June 16, 2019.
Tucker was involved in the death of 62-year-old Danny Smith on the evening of June 17, 2015 in Georgetown. According to court documents filed with the Brown County Municipal Court, Tucker and Georgetown resident Maribeth Denny drove to Cincinnati to purchase heroin. When they returned, Denny, Tucker, and Smith split the heroin. At approximately 7:48 p.m. that evening, the Georgetown Police Department was dispatched to Smith’s home on New Street for a potential overdose.
Georgetown EMS arrived five minutes later, according to a probable cause affidavit, but eventually ended chest compressions and called the Brown County Coroner, Dr. Judith Varnau.
It’s unclear, according to the affidavit, who gave Smith the heroin, but both Tucker and Denny were arrested and jailed for their involvement. Denny was later released, but a recent probation violation has her back in the Brown County Jail.
Tucker was indicted by the Brown County Grand Jury on August 13 with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony, one count of corrupting another with drugs, a second-degree felony, and one count of trafficking in heroin, a fifth-degree felony. As part of his plea bargain, counts two, three, and four were dismissed.
Tucker’s conviction is likely to be just the first of many as the Brown County Prosecutor’s Office looks to try and uproot the deadly drug epidemic that Brown County and all of Southwest Ohio is faced with.
At his sentencing hearing, Gusweiler read out the names of 37 friends and family members who wrote letters to the court in support of Tucker. While Gusweiler was impressed with the outpouring of support, he said what was more important to him was Tucker’s extensive record with the Brown County Juvenile Court.
“All these letters were telling me what a great guy you were, and I was like ‘holy cow’!” Gusweiler said. “And then I looked at your prior record, and that told me you weren’t a good guy. You were either spoiled, you were either kowtowed to, you either thought that you were better than everyone else, and you thought you were going to do your own this. This isn’t juvenile court, son.”
Gusweiler also labeled Tucker as a “punk,” which Tucker agreed was a fair statement.
Tucker then went on a long, eloquent speech, explaining to Gusweiler and his family how he has changed since he was incarcerated.
“I’d like to start by letting everyone know how sorry I am, the victim’s family mainly, for everything that’s happened, and I want my family to know that I’m sorry for putting them through this as well,” Tucker said. “This has been pretty hard on me and I’m sure it’s been hard on them.
“They say when you live the life I’ve been living, you can end up in one of two places; dead, or in prison. I consider myself lucky to have one and not the other.
“I appear you before court after the most gut-wrenching and humuliating experience that I’ve probably ever had to do, and I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody nor would I ever want to go through anything like this ever in my life. But I try to look at the positive and maintain a positive attitude about things, and accepting a positive attitude about things. Accepting responsibility for what happened was a big part in this, and I felt that’s what I needed to do, so I did that.
“This might sound kind of ironic since I’ve been locked up and in jail, but this whole experience has been kind of freeing. I’ve had a clear mind. My mom can sleep at night. I’m sober today. I’m alive. When I’m out there using and living the life I’m living, I’m not alive. It’s not something I wish upon anybody nor something I want to fall into again, nor do I plan to.
“So now I just try to take whatever’s thrown at me and then take it in the right direction, use everything to grow through this experience and not sit back and look at what’s happened. I believe I have control over what’s left of the situation and I’m going to do my best to take care of it.”
Smith’s daughter Stephanie Fleming then spoke at the sentencing hearing, and in tearful remarks, asked for justice to be done.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Zac Corbin described how he knew Tucker when he was a youngster, when Tucker was on Corbin’s youth basketball team. But Corbin continued that at some point, Tucker took a wrong turn and it got to the point where it seemed that Tucker was proud of his drug use.
“I don’t argue that Mr. Tucker wanted Danny Smith to die,” Corbin said. “I don’t think he purposefully caused the death, but that’s not what involuntary manslaughter is. He brought the drug to Danny Smith, he furnished that drug that caused the death. We would just ask the court to sentence him accordingly.”
Along with reading Tucker his sentence, Gusweiler instructed Tucker to live up to his potential, for Fleming’s sake.
“You’ll have Thanksgiving,” Gusweiler said. “You’ll have Christmas. You’ll have time with your family. Ms. Fleming never will. She doesn’t have her dad but now you’re going to show through your conduct what a success you can be, and as you learn through this awful tragedy that you occasioned upon them. No longer juvenile court. No longer being a punk.
“You do your time and you do it responsibly. Ms. Fleming is owed no less. She deserves every day, you thinking about how you’re going to improve yourself to make her proud of you. She deserves that. She’s owed that. Your county deserves that. We’re owed that.”
Two other individuals, were indicted on August 13 on charges of involuntary manslaughter on separate, unrelated incidents.
Brandy Keith, 33, of Mt. Orab, has a sentencing hearing on November 4 for her case. The case of Joshua Brockman, 34, of Mt. Orab, is currently still in the pre-trial portion. Both Keith and Brockman have pleaded not guilty to the charges but remain in the Brown County Jail.