Police Make Arrest In Fentanyl Overdose Death

(File photo courtesy of Free Images - Pixabay)

HOWELL – A 24-year-old Trenton man was arrested by Howell Police for his role in selling a lethal combination of drugs that led to the death of a Howell resident earlier this year.

The 21-year-old victim, Todd Cogar, was found unresponsive by family members in the early morning hours of March 8. Despite several lifesaving efforts and the use of the opioid reversal drug Narcan, Cogar was pronounced dead around 9:30 a.m. that morning. Responding Howell Police officers were able to recover some of the heroin and fentanyl mixture that led to the overdose, and launched an investigation to determine where the deadly concoction of drugs came from.

Photo courtesy of Cop Cruisers.org

Assistance during the investigation from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation led to the identification of Christopher McQueen as the seller. Howell Police Officers discovered that the drugs were sold to Cogar by McQueen on March 7 at a motel on Route 1 in Lawrence Township.

“Howell officers worked extensively on this investigation understanding the importance of getting to the source of the epidemic,” said Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick in a statement. “From the onset, our detectives worked this case as if it was a homicide. They developed leads and used multiple resources to build a strong case. It was then presented to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office who authorized the criminal charges.”

McQueen was charged with first degree Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Deaths, third degree Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance and third degree Unlawful Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.

If convicted on the Drug-Induced Deaths charge, he faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in a New Jersey state prison without parole, and a maximum sentence of 20 years. The two third degree charges each carry sentences of five to ten years in prison.

Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni commended the Howell Police Department, as well as the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI for their efforts in tracking down the source of the fatal drugs.

“The opioid epidemic remains one of the biggest challenges facing our communities,” Gramiccioni warned in a statement. “Often, the drug addict is not even aware that he has been sold fentanyl, a substance that is 50 times more potent than heroin. It is imperative that we do everything possible to help those who have fallen prey to the lure of highly addictive opiates such as heroin. I will continue to bring the fight to all who profit from this crisis.”

(Photo courtesy of Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office)

The opioid crisis has hit Monmouth County particularly hard over the past few years, an issue that Prosecutor Gramiccioni seems well aware of. The most up-to-date drug overdose statistics and number of Narcan deployments for the county are listed on the Prosecutor’s Office website. So far this year, there have been 57 opioid-related overdose deaths and Narcan has been deployed 278 times to reverse an individual from a drug overdose. In June, all public, private and parochial schools in Monmouth County started carrying Narcan kits in the event of a drug overdose happening on school grounds.

“While some will claim Mr. Cogar’s actions contributed to his death, we disagree. He had an addiction. He didn’t intend to die. McQueen was responsible for that when he sold him a lethal dose of fentanyl-laced heroin,” said Chief Kudrick.

At press time, McQueen was being held in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution pending his first court appearance.