Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

May 17, 2013

Heroin overdose kills man

BEULAH — Benzie County's struggle with fatal heroin overdoses continues.

Authorities confirmed Justin Smith, 23, of Benzonia, was found dead Wednesday night of a heroin overdose. Law enforcement officials arrested a suspect in Smith's death, the fourth heroin-related fatality in the county since 2011.

"Unfortunately, there's a market for it," Benzie County Prosecutor Sara Mason said, noting the county has seen several recent heroin-related arrests.

Smith was found dead in a home near Alysworth Road in Benzonia Township on Wednesday about 10 p.m.

Sheriff Ted Schendel said a male suspect was arrested Thursday. The suspect faces a charge of delivery of heroin causing death and will be arraigned in 85th District Court.

Schendel said he could not provide information on the suspect's age or address.

The Benzie County Sheriff's Department conducted the investigation in conjunction with the Traverse Narcotics Team. Evidence was gathered at a Benzonia Township home following the death.

"A lot of things fell in place," Schendel said.

TNT detectives could not be reached for comment.

Smith's death is the first fatal overdose attributed to heroin in Benzie County since 2011. That year three people — Michael Everett, 21, Nikita Cheyenne Wheeler, 20, and Thomas Maxwell, 25 — died from heroin overdoses.

Everett's girlfriend, Lisa Michelle Woodhall, was charged with one count of delivery of a controlled substance causing death. She told the Record-Eagle in 2011 she did heroin with Everett but did not believe herself responsible for his death.

"Everybody thinks I killed him," she said. "I didn't kill him. I'm so tired of people saying that. They can investigate, but I didn't kill him. If they do arrest me, it's going to be false."

Woodhall is scheduled for a three-day jury trial starting June 26.

Schendel said the sheriff's department and TNT are actively involved in tracking heroin in Benzie County, but can't always stop people from making harmful decisions.

"The team is well aware of all the players that were involved in this," he said. "Our job is to go after the drugs and educate people as much as we can."

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