Case Moves Forward Against Erie County Prison Inmate Charged In - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Case Moves Forward Against Erie County Prison Inmate Charged In Drug Overdose Death

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The case against an Erie county prison inmate, charged with supplying heroin to 3 other inmates inside the prison, is moving forward.
Those inmates overdosed, one of them died.

During Tuesday's hearing, 3 Erie county prison inmates testified. Two of them said they overdosed on the same heroin that led to another inmate's death, heroin supplied to them by the defendant.

A judge Tuesday afternoon, bound over all charges to trial against 48-year old Nathan Howard, of Tacoma, Washington.

He's charged with possessing and furnishing contraband, and drug delivery resulting in death. That last charge is the equivalent of third degree homicide.

Investigators say Howard had the heroin inside his body when he entered the prison back in April 27th.
The overdoses happened within the next four days.

During the hearing Tuesday, Howard's cell mate testified that Howard told him to "look out" for corrections officers, while he went to the bathroom in the cell.  Shortly afterward, the inmate testified Howard was "fiddling with something on a piece of paper." The inmate testified that he was "dope sick," experiencing severe heroin withdrawal symptoms. So, he took heroin from Howard when offered, on two occasions. The second time he overdosed, "I snorted it, I looked into the mirror and that's the last thing I remember. I then I woke up in the hospital," the inmate testified.

Tuesday, prosecutors also played surveillance video from inside the prison, that allegedly shows Howard passing the drugs inside of a white piece of paper to Steven Burkart. Drugs that prosecutors say would end up being a deadly mix of fentanyl and heroin that would claim Burkart's life, "Burkhart had 7 times the lethal amount of fentanyl in his body," said District Attorney Jack Daneri during the hearing.

While the DA says they have a very strong case with circumstantial evidence, Howard's defense attorney, Bruce Sandmeyer, argues there's no physical evidence that ties his client to the deadly heroin, "At this point we don't see the evidence that connects the drugs that Steven Burkhart took that caused his death, any connection with Mr. Howard," said Sandmeyer.

In terms of the video, Sandmeyer says there's no way to tell what was inside the paper during the possible transfer. He also questions what you can actually see in the video, "This video in this case is very small, and I don't think it is very clear and it's going to be something that a jury is going to have to make a determination on," Sandmeyer said.

Sandmeyer also argues that police never actually found any heroin in the prison. But the DA says said they have evidence with 3 overdoses, one of them deadly.
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