Kelvis Blake Dula was given an active prison term of 10 to 13 years following his conviction for second-degree murder in connection with a drug overdose death during Caldwell County Superior Court on Monday, June 3, 2019.
The Honorable Louis A. Trosch, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, imposed the prison term for Dula after he pleaded guilty to the crime. The defendant will spend his period of incarceration in custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.
Investigation by the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and Lenoir Police Department revealed that Dula, 23, of Lenoir, supplied cyclopropyl fentanyl, an altered form of fentanyl, to 18-year-old Madison Leigh Workman.
When they learned of the serious nature and dangers posed by the illegal drug being distributed in Caldwell County that was causing a rash of overdoses and, in some cases, leading to deaths, the Lenoir Police Department, the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office dedicated specific personnel to investigate and prosecute those cases.
Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Stephen Raby and Lenoir Police Department Sgt. John Howard worked jointly on the investigation, turning over their findings to Assistant District Attorney Nancy Lee for prosecution by the State.
The collaborative investigation showed that Workman consumed a lethal amount of cyclopropyl fentanyl, which led to her death on July 28, 2017, and through a year-long inquest, investigators determined that Dula’s actions played a role in Workman’s fatal overdose.
Following her death, Workman’s body was moved from Dula’s residence on Table Rock Road to the porch of another home on Dulatown Road.
Dula was identified as a suspect in the case, and investigators determined that he was going outside of Caldwell County to get the cyclopropyl fentanyl from another supplier and then distributing the toxic drug to local residents.
When interviewed, Dula admitted to being the only person at the gathering who had drugs with him. The State was able to establish the malice needed for investigators and prosecutors to seek a second-degree murder conviction through additional investigative findings.
“Our office wants to aggressively prosecute these types of drug cases, especially in light of the seven overdoses that occurred in Caldwell County over the Memorial Day weekend,” District Attorney Scott Reilly said. “I want to thank Chief Brent Phelps, Sheriff Alan Jones and their investigators on these cases for their passion and hard work to combat such a serious threat to our community.”
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors plan to continue aggressively pursuing and punishing those responsible for bringing such illegal drugs into the local community.
“This is just another example of how bad cyclopropyl fentanyl is in our community,” Caldwell County Sheriff Alan Jones said. “It took the life of a young lady and a tragic end for her family. I ask the citizens of Caldwell County to help all law enforcement get rid of this toxic substance by telling us if they know of anyone using this highly illegal drug.”
LPD Chief Brent Phelps added, “Investigators for the Lenoir Police Department will continue to work side by side with the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office for the 36th Prosecutorial District to build cases on individuals that engage in this type of activity in our community. I hope this sends a message to individuals that distribution of these substances will not be tolerated by our agencies.”
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl is also diverted for abuse. Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency or be disguised as highly potent heroin.
Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States, and the misuse of such drugs has been on the rise in North Carolina. A 2016 report showed that the opiate abuse rates of Wilmington and Hickory were ranked among the top five cities in the nation.
A report from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) showed that there were 166 opioid-related deaths in North Carolina in July 2017 and 2,031 confirmed deaths of such kind for the entire year. Caldwell County started seeing a rash of overdose cases in July 2017.
Cpl. Raby led the investigation for the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from Caldwell Sheriff’s Inv. Roger Crosby and Sgt. Howard of LPD. Lee prosecuted the case for the State.
CONTACT: Nathan Key