Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

May 19, 2013

Benzie drug death leads to heroin charges

BEULAH — Authorities filed drug-dealing charges against a suburban Detroit man after a suspected heroin overdose death in Benzie County.

Mark Lee Maxwell, 32, of Oak Park, was arraigned Friday in 85th District Court on two felony counts of delivery and manufacture of heroin and cocaine. Benzie County Prosecutor Sara Mason said an investigation is ongoing after the suspected heroin-related death of Benzonia resident Justin Smith, 23.

"There may be more charges coming in this case," she said. "We have to wait and look at all the evidence."

Smith was found dead Wednesday evening in a home near Alysworth Road. He is the fourth Benzie County fatality linked to heroin since 2011.

Maxwell also was charged as a habitual offender and could face up to life imprisonment. His prior convictions include first-degree home invasion, unarmed robbery and fleeing and eluding police.

He was being held Friday in Benzie County Jail on a $1 million 10 percent bond.

Mason said suspects from downstate in drug cases are fairly common in northern Michigan.

"I don't think Benzie County is unique at all," she said.

Benzie County Sheriff's Department and Traverse Narcotics Team detectives could not be reached for comment.

Another man was arraigned Friday on misdemeanor charges indirectly coming from the investigation. Justin Rice, 22, of Frankfort, received a ticket for driving while on a suspended license. Mason said Rice was with Smith on Wednesday, but the investigation shows no evidence he was involved with the drug case.

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