BWI Private Investigator Stephanie Alexander found a key witness who unraveled a Fentanyl-related second-degree murder case in Maury County, TN, eventually leading to a probation settlement.
The female witness, whose name is being withheld, was friends with the decedent, who died after unknowingly taking Fentanyl. The witness and decedent were acquaintances of BWI’s client.
The three bought drugs together twice in May 2020. At the time, BWI’s client was a drug addict who got a cut of the drugs he helped purchase. According to the female witness, she and the decedent later purchased drugs a third time from a Nashville-area dealer known as Dread, and the decedent died the next day. However, BWI’s client was charged in the murder.
Partnering With Defense Attorney Eric Larsen
Defense attorney Eric Larsen took on the case and brought on Berry-Waltz Investigations (BWI). The experienced defense lawyer has been around the criminal justice system his entire life: His father was a Michigan State Police homicide detective, and Eric worked as a probation and parole officer before pursuing his law degree and dedicating his practice to criminal defense.
He wanted Stephanie Alexander’s help with the case “because every single time I involve her, she provides value to my team and my clients,” Eric says.
After reviewing the Fentanyl-related murder case against their client, Eric and Stephanie were curious as to why police had not pursued leads involving a man named Dread, with whom the decedent had texted immediately prior to his death, even using a cash app to pay him.
“Whoever he texted with last is the person he got the drugs from, but the police did nothing to pursue that,” Stephanie says. “They had a cell phone number and subpoena power to go after cell records, but they didn’t do that. Our client cooperated and talked to the police, and he admitted meeting with the witness and the decedent and helping them get drugs. But when they parted ways, everyone was still alive.”
Eric Larsen says his client is in recovery and doing well with his sobriety. At the time, he was an addict trying to help his acquaintances score heroin, Eric says. “It turns out it was Fentanyl, which is not uncommon these days because Fentanyl is being used to cut certain drugs or used as a replacement drug. Addicts take Fentanyl unknowingly and end up dying.”
Tennessee Law Allows Second-Degree Murder Charge in Fentanyl Overdose Deaths
Eric says it’s not the first time he has defended drug addicts unfairly caught up in a law meant to snare big-time drug dealers and get Fentanyl off the street.
“The Fentanyl law is meant to punish drug dealers, but it’s being abused, in my opinion, by prosecutors around the state charging addicts and low-level users,” Eric says. “A lot of times, the addicts will help other guys get drugs and they’ll get a cut of the drug in return – so they’re not actually making money. They are not drug dealers; they are helping other people get drugs because they themselves are drug addicts. Fortunately, in this case, the prosecutor did the right thing after Stephanie uncovered the truth.”
“In this case, in my opinion, the cops did a sloppy job of investigating,” Eric says. “They should have done a deeper dive into the background of the ultimate person who the decedent ended up getting his drugs from.
BWI Private Investigator Stephanie Alexander Tracks Down Key Witness
“And that’s where Stephanie came in,” the defense lawyer says. “She tracked down the friend of the deceased, who was critical to our case. This witness was difficult to track down, and Stephanie had to travel to find her. Stephanie was instrumental in getting the information we needed to support our theory of this case. And, ultimately, that’s why I wanted to try this case – because I felt very strongly that we would prevail at trial. My client was thrilled to get a no-jail probation offer, and I couldn’t dispute his decision because, if convicted at trial, he would have been looking at a 15- to 25-year prison sentence.
“It was a good outcome,” Eric Larsen says. “None of this would have happened without Stephanie.”
Stephanie says the witness has been afraid of reprisal because the decedent ripped off Dread by not paying him the full amount through a cash app. The witness told her that after she and the decedent met up with BWI’s client, the decedent texted and called Dread to purchase drugs. The pair then traveled to Columbia, TN. They got a motel room and did drugs, and the witness fell asleep. The witness told Stephanie she awoke to police knocking at the motel door.
“In the police body cam video, the witness is intoxicated and worried if the decedent is OK,” Stephanie says. “The cops tried to resuscitate him. They did try to save him. When they did the toxicology during his autopsy, there was only Fentanyl in his system.”
Stephanie, who was BWI’s first hire and has over 12 years of experience as a private investigator, says she likes working on Eric Larsen’s cases because they share a common goal of helping people caught up in the worst mistakes of their lives.
“I would never say it was me that cracked this case because it was totally a team effort. Eric will fight his butt off for his clients, and I respect that so much,” Stephanie says.