This article was originally posted on goerie.com on Oct. 4, 2017 by Tim Hahn.
Two Erie residents charged in connection with a county drug probe into the overdose death of a man in Millcreek Township in June were ordered on Wednesday to face trial on all of the criminal charges filed against them.
Damon D. Henderson, 27, was held for court on charges including felony counts of drug delivery resulting in death and possession with intent to deliver in the death of a 56-year-old man that was ruled an accidental overdose. Henderson was held for court following his preliminary hearing before Erie 2nd Ward District Judge Paul Urbaniak on Wednesday morning. Investigators charge that Henderson provided the victim with quantities of heroin/fentanyl and cocaine that were found in the victim’s system after he died on June 16.
Also charged as part of the investigation is 33-year-old Erie resident Lacey L. Carnes, whom investigators said lives with Henderson and was in their East Eighth Street residence with three young children when investigators found quantities of heroin, heroin/fentanyl and cocaine during a search on June 20. The charges filed against Carnes, including conspiracy to commit possession with intent to deliver and endangering the welfare of children, were held for court by Urbaniak after Wednesday’s hearing.
Henderson remains in the Erie County Prison on $500,000 bond. Carnes is free on her own recognizance.
Investigators with the Erie County District Attorney’s Drug Task Force charged Henderson with supplying the drugs to the victim after investigators used the victim’s cellphone to set up another drug purchase on June 20. Investigators had checked the cellphone, which was at the Millcreek residence where the victim was found in cardiac arrest on June 15, and viewed text messages between the victim and a person known as “Dd” with references of the victim purchasing drugs. Investigators traced the phone number to Henderson, and learned that he lives close to a convenience store where they said the victim had gone to buy drugs on June 15, according to information in the criminal complaint.
A 20-year-old woman who was with the victim on the day he died, and who said she ingested crack cocaine and heroin with the victim earlier that day, testified that she overheard the victim calling someone and asking for quantities of “hard” and “food,” which she said were terms for crack and heroin. She denied under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Paul Sellers that she traveled to Erie with the victim to purchase the drugs on June 15, and denied describing to police the man the victim obtained the drugs from.
The woman additionally testified that two detectives came to her workplace on June 19, showed her a photo of a man and told her repeatedly that this was the victim’s dealer and to say it was. The woman said she replied that maybe it was, because she wanted the detectives to leave because co-workers were around and she was afraid of getting fired.
Millcreek police Detective Brian Fiorelli testified that the woman told other officers that she traveled with the victim to Erie’s east side on June 15 and they stopped at a Country Fair, where the victim got out of their vehicle and returned a short time later with drugs. Fiorelli also said the woman described the dealer to police as a short, stocky African-American or Hispanic male, and investigators determined the Country Fair she and the victim went to was on East Avenue in the city.
Fiorelli additionally testified that when he and another detective visited the woman at her workplace and showed her a photo of Henderson, she stated it was the victim’s reported dealer, “D.” He said the woman was not pressured or threatened during the encounter.
On June 20, after setting up the drug sale with Henderson while using the victim’s phone, Fiorelli said he exchanged texts with Henderson while using the phone, and other investigators watched Henderson as he exited the East Eighth Street residence to meet up for the drug transaction. Investigators who went to take Henderson into custody saw him throw something to the ground, and the items turned out to be quantities of heroin/fentanyl and crack, the detective said.
Fiorelli said the East Eighth Street residence was cleared, then held until a search warrant was served on it later that day. During the search, investigators found quantities of heroin, cocaine and heroin/fentanyl; scales and a utility knife with drug residue on them; four guns; cash; and Henderson’s identification, he said. Some of the drugs and items with drug residue on them were found in a second-floor hallway, including some drugs in a dresser drawer that also contained baby’s clothing, Fiorelli testified.
Carnes and three young children were inside the residence, Fiorelli said.
Fiorelli said under questioning by Henderson’s lawyer, Eric Hackwelder, that he saw no police reports stating that police were permitted to enter the Millcreek home where the victim was found on June 15, and that police did not obtain a search warrant to remove the victim’s cellphone from the residence. When asked by Carnes’ lawyer, Brian Arrowsmith, why the 20-year-old woman who was with the victim when he died wasn’t brought to the Millcreek police station for questioning instead of being spoken to at her workplace on June 19, Fiorelli said investigators felt they had to move quickly but carefully because of concerns that the victim’s death would become known.
Erie County Detective Sgt. Matt Benacci testified that he overheard a prison conversation between Henderson, Carnes and a male he identified as Henderson’s brother on June 21 in which Henderson talked of speaking with Carnes about the drug transaction he thought he was making with the victim on June 20 before Henderson left the East Eighth Street residence and was taken into custody by the drug investigators.
Tim Hahn can be reached at 870-1731 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNhahn.