Deputies from the Boone County Sheriff's Department on Friday arrested Rebecca Sharon Ball, 43, in connection with the death of Cathy Jo Woodrum, 32.
“Whenever a drug deal leads to the death of a person, West Virginia law recognizes that as a felony murder, which is first-degree murder," Sheriff Rodney Miller said. "That is what we believe happened here.”
According to a police report filed in Boone County Magistrate Court by Sergeant D.W. Sutphin, "the defendant obtained methadone tablets from another individual for which she did not have a valid prescription and committed the felony act of delivery of a controlled substance by selling the same, in exchange for U.S. currency to the victim. ... The victim then consumed the methadone and died as a result of the effects of the methadone. Methadone is a Schedule II controlled substance in accordance with WV Code 60A-2-206."
In cases like this one, Miller said, it doesn't matter whether the death is intentional or unintentional.
"The death resulted from that felony," he said. "It's murder."
Woodrum was found dead in her home on June 6.
Drug use was originally suspected and recently proven after the sheriff's department received blood test results from the State Medical Examiner’s Office, which allowed investigators to proceed with their case.
According to initial reports, investigators believe Ball obtained methadone tablets and sold the drugs to Woodrum. Investigators also believe the use of those methadone tablet led to Woodrum's death later that night.
"The toxicology report always indicates the amount of drugs that are located in a person’s system when an autopsy is done," Miller said.
The reports tell law enforcement officers "what therapeutic levels are, what toxic levels are and what lethal levels are" for drugs.
The level of methadone in Woodrum's body "was up into the lethal range," Miller said.
The penalty for murder is life in prison.
"We can't stand for this," Miller said. "It’s killing our community and it’s killing our state. Anytime we have an avenue to put a drug dealer in jail, that’s what we’re going to do."
Deputy E.E. Arthur and Corporal C.P. Barker arrested Ball inside Kroger.
Covering her face with her handcuffed hands and wrists, Ball cried as Arthur walked her down the ramp and up the stairs that lead to the Boone County Courthouse Annex.
"I can't believe this," she said as he escorted her into the jail. "You all are messed up."
Miller praised his deputies for their work in this case.
“Once the deputies received information they needed, they were able to proceed with the case and solve it quickly," Miller said. "Deputies assigned to the DEA Drug Task Force and the U.S. 119 Task Force joined in on the investigation. Pooling all these resources, in addition to our road deputies, led to the solving of this case.”
Sergeant D.W. Sutphin is the lead investigator of the case.
To their credit, Sutphin and his colleagues were able to gleen information from the tight-knit and tight-lipped drug community.
"Usually in the drug world, the people who are buying and selling and dealing, they are very protective," Miller said. "Information is usually limited in those cases. So, when we can follow up and get that information, we do.
"They’re difficult (to deal with). They’re a very clannish — for a lack of a better word — group. (They're) very protective (and) very paranoid. They don’t very freely share information with law enforcement."
Ball remains at Southwestern Regional Jail.
Others still could be charged for their connection in the death, specifically the person who sold the methadone tablets to Ball.
"Very much so," Miller said when asked if that was a possibility. "It’s a continuation of the criminal enterprise. That’s something we’re definitely taking a look at."
Miller said he planned to contact officials from the United States Attorney's Office to see if they have an interest in the case.
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