Woman Pleads Guilty to Controlled Substance Homicide in 2019
A woman, who investigators say supplied the heroin that led to the overdose of a man from Hoquiam in August 2019, has pleaded guilty to controlled substance homicide.
After a lengthy investigation by the Hoquiam Police Department, Jennifer Ann Harmon, 29, was arrested on charges in July 2020. Originally complaining not guilty, Harmon changed her guilty plea on Friday morning after the finding of a plea agreement.
“All of these overdose deaths are potentially drug-related homicides because whoever supplied the drugs may be criminally responsible for the death,” Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers said.
“I am very proud of our officers and detectives for recognizing and following the leads that brought us to the person who sold the drugs the victim took just before she died of an overdose. While that doesn’t bring him back, it does send a message to those who peddle this poison to others. “
Hoquiam police were called for an overdose in block 1200 avenue Chenault in Hoquiam on August 28, 2019 and found David W. Keys deceased. According to court documents, when Keys’ body was removed, a syringe was found in his hand. An autopsy was performed and the pathologist determined Keys had died of a heroin overdose and said the case was accidental.
Hoquiam investigators discovered a cell phone at Keys’ home that was believed to be his. A warrant was obtained to access the phone, and investigators found text messages from Keys to a “Jennifer” in the hours leading up to Keys’ death. According to a police report from Hoquiam, Jennifer informs that she is “sick” and Keys offers to share $ 40 with her “so that she can recover.”
Recognizing the phrase “cure” as common terminology among heroin addicts to describe the illness experienced when deprived of drugs, investigators searched for Jennifer in the texts. A warrant was issued for the phone records of the number associated with Jennifer, but it was for a Tracphone with no subscriber information, sometimes referred to as a recorder phone, with no subscriber information.
Investigators turned to Keys’ workplace and Harmon’s name came up, a name investigators were familiar with due to “a history of illegal use and sale of narcotics, especially heroin.” , according to Hoquiam’s police report.
Investigators learned that Harmon had been arrested under a pending warrant and was in Hoquiam prison. Investigators noticed a cell phone included in his personal belongings when booking, and that phone was secured and placed in evidence.
During the interview, Harmon was asked if the cell phone with the number that texted Keys was hers, and she replied that it was. Investigators then accessed multiple texts between Keys and Harmon that indicated the two were meeting on the night of Keys’ overdose to purchase $ 40 worth of “brown,” a common user term for heroin.
In a subsequent interview, Harmon admitted to selling the drugs to Keys, but first said she didn’t think Keys had taken the heroin “because he texted her the next day to want to do it together” , according to Hoquiam’s police report. She was then informed that Keys had died of an overdose, at which point, “Her eyes got big and her face turned white. She shut up and put her head in her hands.
Shortly after, according to the report, Harmon made phone calls from the prison, the recordings of which made him say “the guy I sold brown to is dead.”
At Friday’s hearing, Harmon told Judge David Mistachkin that she admitted to providing the heroin that resulted in Keys’ overdose death and that she understood that pleading guilty did not mean that a judge sentencing was to follow the plea agreement.
The standard sentence range for the offense is between four years and three months to five years and six months in prison. At Friday’s hearing, Grays Harbor County Assistant Chief Public Prosecutor Jason Walker said the state is recommending the lower end of the range. Harmon’s lawyer is asking for a “DOSA in prison” – Alternative Sentencing for Drug Addict Offenders – which Walker said the state would not oppose – Harmon has no previous crimes.
According to the state’s Department of Corrections, a DOSA prison sentence allows individuals to serve the first part of their sentence in prison and the remainder of their sentence while under community supervision. DOSA people in prison receive an assessment and are required, time permitting, to start or end treatment in prison before continuing with community-based treatment.
Harmon’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 7 at 2 p.m.