A series of text messages between an Ozaukee County man and an alleged drug dealer have led to homicide charges in connection with the area man's fatal overdose.
Joshua Gray, 24, of Milwaukee, was charged in Ozaukee County Court on Monday with felony charges of first-degree reckless homicide and delivering drugs. If convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison and fines of $100,000. A $75,000 cash bond was set during his initial appearance on Monday.
The victim, Riley Knapp of Grafton, was found unresponsive when a friend stopped by to check on Knapp after not hearing from him for some time at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 3, according to the criminal complaint. He was pronounced dead at 12:25 p.m.
Knapp was found in his bedroom, where a needle, tourniquet, a bag of heroin, a jar of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia were found, the complaint said. Officers also searched through his cellphone activity and noticed a phone number with no contact name attached to it that Knapp had recently been texting.
The texts said things such as "need the pure," and asked the drug dealer to "give him a sample." The communications took place between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2, the complaint said.
Grafton police, working with the Ozaukee County Anti-Drug Task Force and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Drug Unit, operated an undercover sting to find the drug dealer, Gray, according to a press release from the Ozaukee County Sheriff's Office. Gray admitted to selling Knapp the drugs, and told officers the last sale had been for two bags of heroin: one $100 bag and a one $50 bag, the complaint said.
Last January, the supervisor of the task force, Ozaukee County Sheriff's Lt. Rodney Galbraith, said he believed heroin use in the county to be at an "all-time high."
The amount of heroin seized by the task force has increased almost 400 percent since 2009, according to the Ozaukee County Sheriff's Department annual reports:
- 2009: 11.3 grams
- 2010: 26.2 grams
- 2011: 51.7 grams
"I don't think there's any question in my mind from the amount of information that I review during my course of duties of supervising our (drug task force) that the use of heroin and the potentional for heroin overdose deaths is the worst I’ve ever seen it," Galbraith said, adding that he sees this as a growing problem nationwide and not just in Ozaukee County.
"The week before last, there was a heroin overdose in the city of Port — thankfully rescue got (there) in time, and it didn’t end up being a fatality," he said.
Galbraith said he considers the use of heroin to be like playing a game of Russian Roulette, "sooner or later you’re going to have a live bullet, and if it's not in the right situation, you're going to end up dead."
By "right situation," Galbraith referred to one scenario of users who often buddy up with someone that would be able to call for help or assist in other ways with their rescue — should something go wrong.
There are a lot of factors that may contribute to the growing problem of heroin use, but Galbraith said one of those includes new practices in the pharmaceutical realm — such as prescription narcotics that will now turn to liquid when crushed, preventing people from being able to snort the drug; those people may turn to heroin, which is becoming affordable.
"I'm amazed every day that I see surbuban Ozaukee County young people that are willing to take a drug like heroin, that's ultimately going to have a devastating effect on their life, their friend's lives, their family's lives," he said.
"Its just devastating," he said. "I certainly hope that our community leaders understand that it's (going to be a) battle for years to come."
Gray will appear in court again at 1:15 p.m. Friday for a status hearing.