CIRCLEVILLE - An Orient man will spend the next 11 years in state prison for his role in the overdose death of a friend in December of 2015.
Dwayne C. Dawson, 49, pleaded guilty Dec. 1, 2016, in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court to one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of trafficking in heroin. He was sentenced to the maximum 11-year sentence Wednesday by Judge P. Randall Knece.
Dawson was accused of providing the heroin that led to the overdose death of Jessica M. Lillie, 27, of Orient, on Dec. 15, 2015.
According to Heather Armstrong, assistant Pickaway County Prosecutor, the case was the first of its type in Pickaway County in which the person who supplied the drugs was prosecuted for the death of the user.
"Other counties had started doing it, and this is just one of those cases where the evidence was overwhelming," Armstrong said. "We could prove that he provided the heroin through text messages and through his DNA on the packaging. A lot of times, you're not going to be able to find all that, but in this case it all came together."
Armstrong credited a new approach through the Pickaway County Sheriff's Office for finding and following the evidence that resulted in the successful prosecution.
Sheriff Robert Radcliff said the approach is the result of special training hosted by the Sheriff's Office in October of 2015 that proved successful in less than two months with the investigation of Lillie's death.
"We had the Attorney General's Office and BCI come in and do training for our detectives and all our other local law enforcement at Ohio Christian University," Radcliff said. "Basically, we wanted to start looking at overdoses not as, 'Oh, it's another overdose,' but as a homicide investigation."
Radcliff said the training included things detectives need to look for and evidence they should collect to potentially track the fatal drugs back to their source.
"It's not just a squad run," Radcliff said. "It's a crime scene, and it needs to be treated that way."
While such investigations are beginning to take hold throughout the state, Radcliff said he believes the Pickaway County Sheriff's Office is the first in Ohio to host the training through BCI and the Attorney General's Heroin Unit for all local law enforcement agencies.
Radcliff said evidence collected at the scene of Lillie's death not only proved Dawson's guilt but also led to the person who provided the drugs to him. Steve M. Stanton, 48, of Orient, was charged with trafficking in heroin and was sentenced to intervention on Feb. 16.
"Stanton was not charged with involuntary manslaughter because he didn't provide the heroin directly to the victim," Radcliff said. "He was charged with trafficking and was sentenced for that."
Radcliff said his office will continue to seek prosecution for drug dealers to the fullest extent of the law.
"Anything we can collect and send off as evidence, we're going to do that," he said. "It's another way of tackling the drug problem, actually holding these drug dealers accountable for what happens to the people who use them."