BARNSTABLE – A Dennis man was arraigned on serious drug charges this past Friday after police concluded their investigation into a fatal drug overdose which occurred this past March.
HN NOTE/WARNING: The following report contains pertinent and sometimes graphic details related to this ongoing case. The precise details (along with other evidence) make up the Commonwealth’s case and therefor need to be followed almost exactly according to the investigator’s affidavit in order to gain insight into Trooper Fries’ line of thought. This is an extremely important case, during an extremely tragic time in our local history, where individuals are needlessly dying from the reckless distribution of dangerous narcotics. Which is why HN decided to stick as closely to the report as possible. Nonetheless, the victim in this report has many local friends and family whom may find the following details disturbing. No disrespect was intended in publishing these public details here… just a desire for truth and justice… along with the desire to provide insight into the illicit sale of the very poison which is killing our loved ones here on Cape Cod. READER DISCRETION IS HIGHLY ADVISED. But what follows seems to indicate another side to the death of a beloved local 24-year-old. It’s also important to note that in an April 2017 Rhode Island court decision, a drug dealer was sentenced to 20 years for murder after a customer suffered a fatal overdose. CLICK HERE FOR THAT STORY.
Should Massachusetts start filing murder charges on individuals who distribute deadly narcotics?
What follows is according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Barnstable District Court by Trooper Joshua Fries of the Massachusetts State Police:
On March 26, 2017, shortly after 4:00PM, Trooper Fries received a call regarding an unattended death at 30 Aurora Lane in Yarmouth.
Trooper Fries joined Detective Schneeweis of the Yarmouth Police Department, to look into the death of a 24-year-old man.
The deceased was identified as Justin Saunders. CLICK HERE TO VISIT a Memorial Fund Page set up for Justin Saunders on Facebook.
Minutes earlier, at about 3:50PM, Yarmouth Police had received a 911 call for an unresponsive male, arriving a short time later.
At about 3:55PM, Yarmouth Fire officials determined that Saunders was not viable for resuscitation.
Trooper Fries was informed about narcotic paraphernalia on scene and that the 911 caller, Luke Stratton, had been transported to CCH because he had reportedly taken the same heroin that Saunders had.
Trooper Fries advised Dr. Welton, the on-call medical examiner, at approximately 4:25PM. State Police Crime Scene Services were also requested to the scene.
Detective Schneeweis and Trooper Fries went to CCH to interview Luke Stratton in room 42 of the Emergency Department.
Stratton reportedly told investigators he was at his home at 25 North Westgate in Harwich until approximately 2:30PM when Saunders called him for a ride.
Stratton allegedly said he picked up Saunders at 30 Aurora Lane in Yarmouth and drove him to the area of West Yarmouth Road.
Stratton reportedly told detectives that Saunders had exited the vehicle and walked to meet someone to purchase heroin… and that Saunders returned to the vehicle after approximately 10 minutes.
Statton allegedly said both he and Saunders then returned to 30 Aurora and went into the apartment. Stratton then said he went out to his truck to call his girlfriend, Chelsea. According to the affidavit, Stratton did not know his girlfriend’s last name.
Stratton then reportedly told investigators he returned to the apartment and found Saunders in a chair and slumped over a table. Saunders was said to have been face down on the table, with his hands hanging down. According to the affidavit, Stratton said he had been out of the apartment for approximately 10 minutes.
Stratton then allegedly told police he called 911 and then moved Saunders onto the floor where he attempted CPR until first responders arrived on scene.
Stratton reportedly stated his cell phone number was 508-XXX-7443.
After being asked numerous times who Saunders purchased the heroin from, Stratton reportedly stated the supplier’s name was Chris, but did not know his last name… but Chris’s phone number was 508-XXX-4011.
A computer check into 508-XXX-4011 revealed it allegedly belonged to a West Yarmouth man named Christopher Schoener.
After speaking with Stratton, detectives returned to 30 Aurora where they examined the body, noting lividity and rigor had begun to set in. They observed two uncapped needles, a ripped clear plastic baggie, a spoon with residue, and three Q tips on the table where Saunders had been sitting. They also observed a clear plastic baggie with a powder substance on the kitchen counter, which was seized to be tested.
Detectives did not observe any signs of trauma to the body. The home appeared in order and nothing else appeared suspicious.
Trooper Fries seized downloaded information from a cell phone found on the table.
Trooper Fries then notified Saunder’s parents of his death, where he also learned that Saunders had allegedly also been with Stratton when he had overdosed and was resuscitated about a year ago.
The following text message conversation was downloaded off Saunders cell phone. It allegedly took place with Luke Stratton’s phone number (508-XXX-7443) on 3/26/17, the day Saunders died.
(HN NOTE: The following text conversation was copied – as best I could – exactly character for character from Trooper Fries’ affidavit… it has obvious typing errors by those who were sending the texts…):
1:15PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “Sorry i didn’t awnser”
1:17PM Statton sends to Saunders – “What u doing today”
1:18PM Sauders sends to Stratton – “Nadda do u have ne”
1:18PM Statton sends to Saunders – “120 a g good shit”
1:19PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “ok When n where”
1:19PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “U want one”
1:19PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “Splot 1 ?”
1:20PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “U don’t have the money on u”
1:20PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “I do”
1:21PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “I cam go gwt more”
1:21PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “So u want a g or not man don’t make it hard”
1:27PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “Walkomg to bank nooe”
1:27PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “Where u”
1:27PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “I can meet u at ur house”
1:31PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “How long till you’re back in your house?”
1:31PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “With or without”
1:32PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “15 mimutea ill b back”
1:33PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “You said with or without and I have no clue what that means”
1:33PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “With the stuff”
1:34PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “Wes With”
1:37PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “Lol gove me a minute still trying to take out. Cash”
1:38PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “Oh well I’m in Hyannis it’s going to take me a few minutes to finish doing what I’m doing and then I’m going to head that way towards your house I’ll tex” t you when I’m close make sure that you’re there though”
1:39PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “I will be there”
1:39PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “Tryimg to get xash out”
1:40PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “What do you mean trying to get cash out the ages type in f****** number in the 80 and gives you the money”
1:46PM Saunders sends to Stratton – “Not lettong me take my money out guess well do it another day”
1:47PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “Really dude I just paid my own money to get s*** for you dude now you’re saying this man what the f***”
1:47PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “You really don’t have any money bro”
2:25PM Stratton sends to Saunders – “Are you kidding me me me do all this running around and now you won’t even answer bro what the fuck”
Phone records obtained by subpoena show Stratton called Saunders at 2:23PM and then again at 2:24PM which was followed by the text listed above, “Are you kidding me me me do all this running around and now you won’t even answer bro what the fuck” sent at 2:25PM.
According to Trooper Fries’ affidavit, the next call Stratton makes is to 911 at approximately 3:36PM to report that Saunders was unresponsive.
Trooper Fries states, “It is important to note that Stratton calls 508-[XXX]-4011 (Christopher Schoener) at 1:28 p.m. and again at 2:02 p.m. on March 26. This is the number that Stratton gave investigators as his supply.
It’s also important to note that Saunders reportedly only made one call on March 26 to Citizens Bank at about 1:21PM. Saunders also only receives one call on March 26. That call was from Stratton at about 1:47PM.
The only texts Saunders reportedly sends or receives on March 26 are between the hours of 1:15PM and 2:25PM… and those texts were between him and Stratton.
The last text the Saunders reportedly reads is from Stratton at 2:25PM… and Saunders does not have Christopher Schoener’s name or phone number on his phone’s contact list.
On 6/27/17, Trooper Fries reportedly receives the “certification of drug analysis” showing the tan powder discovered at 30 Aurora tested positive for Fentanyl.
(Trooper Fries goes on to point out that most of the “heroin” exhibits purchased or seized by the Cape Cod Drug Task Force contain Fentanyl or are straight Fentanyl.)
The medical examiner determined that Saunders’ cause of death was acute ethanol and Fentanyl intoxication.
In his investigation into Saunders’ death, Trooper Fries listed the following investigative conclusions:
1. Stratton initially called Saunders on 3/26/17 which goes against what Stratton told investigators during his interview.
2. Text content shows that Saunders is not looking for a ride, as Stratton told investigators during his interview.
3. When asked to name the source of supply for the heroin, Stratton names Chris and provides a cell phone number. Investigators learn that Chris is Chris Schoener. A review of Stratton’s phone information revealed that Stratton and Chris Schoener are in contact prior to Saunders’ death and one time after Saunders’ death.
4. A review of Saunders’ phone information revealed no contact between Saunders and Schoener in the hours before Saunders’ death. Schoener’s number is not listed in Saunders’ contacts.
5. Investigators have concluded that Stratton, not Saunders arranged to purchase heroin or Fentanyl from Schoener and picked up the Fentanyl to distribute it to Saunders.
6. Statton told investigators that he left Saunders in the apartment in order to go out to his truck and call his girlfriend, however his phone information shows no outgoing calls between his 2:25PM text to Saunders and his next call to 911.
7. Stratton told investigators that he used the same heroin that Saunders did which is why he went to Cape Cod Hospital.
Most of the above is taken, almost word for word at times, from a 6 page affidavit filed in Barnstable District Court by Trooper Joshua Fries of the Massachusetts State Police.
Trooper Fries issued a complaint on 6/29/17. A warrant was also issued for the arrest of Luke W. Stratton, age 25, of 30 Uncle Stanleys Way in South Dennis.
This past Friday, 6/30/17, Luke W. Stratton was arrested on the above warrant, transported to Barnstable District Court where he was arraigned on the charge of Distribution of Class B Fentanyl (which carries up to a possible 10 years in state prison… or up to 2.5 years in County Jail… and/or fines and fees which can range over $10,000…), along with the charge of Conspiracy to Violate the Controlled Substance Act.
Luke W. Stratton was then released on personal recognizance with his Pretrial Hearing scheduled for August 15, 2017.
The above information is taken directly from court documents and does not yet provide points of view from the defense.
*All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court of law.
HN NOTE: Again, cases similar to the one above raise many questions on how we are dealing with the sale of dangerous narcotics on our streets. One such question is, similar to a recent decision in Rhode Island, “should Massachusetts prosecutors begin filing murder charges on individuals who knowingly distribute deadly narcotics?”