BERLIN – A Berlin man charged in January for supplying the drugs that resulted in the fatal overdose of another local man pleaded guilty last week to distribution of fentanyl and was sentenced to 10 years, five of which were suspended.
On January 8, members of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Enforcement Team responded to a residence in Berlin in reference to an apparent fatal drug overdose of a 20-year-old male. During the course of the investigation, detectives were able to identify Eric R. Bouaphakeo, 21, of Berlin, as the victim’s alleged supplier using various investigative techniques.
As a result of the investigation, Bouaphakeo was charged with possession of heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin. Last Wednesday, Bouaphakeo pleaded guilty to distribution of fentanyl and was sentenced to five yeas of incarceration followed by five years of supervised probation.
There have been similar cases in recent years where the state has sought and successfully prosecuted suspects on manslaughter charges for supplying heroin to users that have resulted in a fatal overdose, but that was not pursued in this case. In 2016, a Berlin man was sentenced to 35 years after supplying heroin that led to the fatal overdose of another man. In a 2017 case in Ocean City, a Delaware woman was sentenced to 10 years with all but three suspended for injecting her father with the heroin that caused his overdose death in a resort hotel room.
However, the cases are often tricky and typically require an actual nexus from the supplier to the user. Worcester County State’s Attorney Kristin Heiser said following Bouaphakeo’s arrest in January manslaughter charges would not be sought and that he had been charged appropriately by the Sheriff’s Office after consultation with her office.
Meanwhile, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office has said it is committed to holding those responsible for distributing controlled dangerous substances in the community. The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office is also reminding residents and visitors that under the Good Samaritan law, individuals that call 911 during an overdose crisis can be immune from prosecution for possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of drug paraphernalia or providing alcohol to minors.