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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears says for the first time, his office filed a charge of “dealing in a controlled substance resulting in death” against a man accused of dealing drugs that led to a another man’s death.

In addition to this level 1 felony charge, Dewayne Mahone already faced six charges related to drug dealing as a result of evidence allegedly found in his home during the investigation into the death of Tony Harrell.

The charge is new for Indiana, first enacted by lawmakers in 2018 to help address drug overdoses. It can result in a sentence of 20-40 years.

” We’re going to make sure the people that are peddling these drugs, the people that are destroying our communities and literally pumping poison into peoples bodies for profit; that we are going to be the ones that stand up and say no we’re going to hold you accountable,” Mears said.

Harrell’s autopsy showed he died in July of opioid intoxication, and it was determined that fentanyl was a main contributor.

An acquaintance of the Harrell identified the suspect and investigators tracked Mahone through cell phone usage. Investigators say they found a text message exchange setting up the drug purchase which led to Harrell’s death.

Court documents show in Mahone’s home,  police found 25 grams of fentanyl, 4.04 grams of heroin, and .34 grams of a mixture of fentanyl and heroin. Devices commonly used for drug dealing were also found, along with two firearms.

“We very likely saved people’s lives. Those are lethal doses we were able to take off the street and prevent people from injecting in their bodies,” Mears said.

Previous attempts by prosecutors to go after drug dealers with murder charges have been less than successful. In Delaware county, a judge dismissed a murder charge against a Muncie woman charged for supplying the drugs that led to a local man’s fatal overdose. And an Indiana Court of Appeals three-judge panel reversed a decision for a felony murder related to an overdose case in Ripley County. Now, Mears believes the new charging capabilities will give prosecutors a much needed tool in the fight the opioid crisis.

“There needs to be accountability for those who illegally sell deadly narcotics, capitalizing on addiction and contributing to the public health crisis of drug overdoses,” Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears stated. “Our understanding of addiction has evolved as has our approach for those who are caught in the spiral of addiction. However, we will not stand down against the distribution of lethal narcotics in our community and the unnecessary loss of loved ones, as the family of Tony Harrell has experienced.”

An ingestion of fentanyl in doses as small as 0.25 mg can be fatal. The U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says it can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin.

The Marion County Coroner’s Office expects 250 people to die from an overdose involving fentanyl in 2020.