SNOW HILL — In what could be test case of sorts in the ongoing battle against opioid addiction in Worcester, a Berlin man found guilty in May of involuntary manslaughter after supplying heroin to another man prior to a fatal overdose was sentenced on Tuesday to 10 years in prison.
Robert Franklin Skinkle, 26, was sentenced to 16 years with all but 10 years suspended for the heroin distribution conviction and 10 years for the involuntary manslaughter count, netting a total 10-year sentence. He was also placed on probation for two-and-a-half years upon his release and fined $500.
Following Skinkle’s conviction in May, Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby said overdoses are now being treated as crime scenes with investigations targeting dealers who supplied the fatal doses. In June, another Berlin man was sentenced to 35 years for supplying methadone in a fatal overdose case and there are more cases in the prosecution pipeline.
Just before midnight last Nov. 13, a Berlin Police officer responded to a residence on Pitts Street to assist EMS with a cardiac event. The officer arrived and learned the victim, a 50-year-old Berlin man, was deceased in the kitchen of the residence and that his passing was the result of an apparent heroin overdose. When the Criminal Enforcement Team detective arrived, the Berlin Police officer provided him with a hypodermic syringe and metallic spoon recovered from the victim’s pocket. Also provided to the detective was the victim’s cell phone, from which some of the details of his final hours were revealed. The detective viewed one of the last phone numbers the victim contacted and determined the phone number was associated with Skinkle.
A search and seizure warrant was obtained for Skinkle’s cell phone, allowing a search for electronic data within the phone. During the subsequent search for data, the detective located a text message conversation from Nov. 13 stating Skinkle agreed to supply the victim with five bags of heroin for $50. The text message conversation also revealed Skinkle delivered the heroin to the victim at his residence at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 13. Further investigation of Skinkle’s cell phone data revealed he was still at the victim’s residence after the victim used the heroin and showed a chilling account of what happened next.
For example, Skinkle’s cell phone records revealed an Internet search for “help my friend is overdosing right in front of me” at 6:07 p.m.
Later, when asked by detectives why he did not call 911, Skinkle told police he was scared and that he had a bundle of heroin a day habit and needed help. He also told the detective “when I left [the victim’s] house he was already dead.”