By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
If police find out who sold or gave Luke Bell the fentanyl that killed him, that person may be charged with manslaughter.
Bell, 32, died Aug. 26 after going missing in Tucson, Arizona. He was a Wyoming-raised country music singer and songwriter who crooned after the style of Buck Owens and Hank Williams.
Bell died of fentanyl poisoning six days after he went missing and was found by a passerby, deceased in a parking garage, according to Tucson authorities.
His death remains under investigation.
If the investigation leads police directly to whomever sold or gave Bell fentanyl, the person could be charged with manslaughter, Sgt. Dallas Hearn of the Tucson Police Department told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.
Hearn works in the department’s narcotic and violent crime unit and in a counter-narcotic alliance task force.
“Our goal is to file manslaughter charges on people (who sell fentanyl), but we have to have an incredible amount of evidence leading up to the death – which is most likely … messages recovered from phones,” said Hearn.
Manslaughter in Arizona is punishable by between three and 35 years in prison, depending on criminal history.
Bell was found with two phones – one flip phone and one smartphone, said Hearn.
“So far, the phones are still in the process of being downloaded, so it’s unknown if we’re going to get any leads from this,” he said.
Hearn also said his expectations are not high since Bell, who was not local to Tucson, is more likely to have done his business in person rather than over the phone.
“My understanding is he had been walking around, transient, in Tucson for a while,” said Hearn. “We might not have any leads on the phone (because) he might have just run into somebody he purchased fentanyl from. Like a face-to-face contact.”
Without enough phone-message evidence to convict a supplier of manslaughter, police will use surveillance to gather more evidence to have suspects charged with narcotics charges, Hearn said.
The Fentanyl ‘Norm’
Fentanyl presence is “huge” in Arizona and the United States now, Hearn said.
“Last month, Tucson had 19 overdoses that my squad was investigating – within the month,” he said. “At least every other day.”
It’s now “the norm” for drug users to have fentanyl in their systems, Hearn said.
Hearn added that many fentanyl users are taking the drug intentionally. They will place the drug, which comes from Mexico as a blue pill, onto aluminum foil, hold a lighter to the underside of the foil and smoke the fumes from the pill as it melts.
“There was paraphernalia consistent with that type of use as the scene where Luke was found,” he said.
Hearn said that when Bell was found three days after his death, he didn’t appear to have been deceased very long because his skin was not yet discolored, which is why the bystander and later, the Tucson Fire Department attempted to resuscitate him.