A Prince William grand jury has handed down rare felony murder charges in connection with the fatal overdose of a 25-year-old Haymarket man in 2018.
The grand jury returned multiple indictments Monday, May 6, in connection with the death of Dustin Colburn Lueker, of Haymarket, who suffered a fatal overdose sometime after taking a narcotic laced with suspected fentanyl on Feb. 24, 2018, according to Sgt. Jonathan Perok, spokesman for the Prince William County Police Department.
Direct indictments were issued for two men: Chukukemeka Musa Chukuka, 32, of no fixed address, and Jacob Carl Belotti, 24, of Twin City, Georgia. Both are charged with felony murder, distribution of a controlled substance and conspiracy to violate the Drug Control Act, in connection with Lueker’s death.
Chukuka is already incarcerated in Fairfax County. Belotti turned himself in Thursday, May 16, Perok said Friday.
The police investigation into Lueker’s death revealed the two men “supplied the victim with a scheduled narcotic combined with suspected fentanyl” at a residence in the 2400 block of Youngs Drive in Haymarket on Feb. 24, 2018.
“Soon after consuming the narcotic, the victim showed signs of an adverse reaction and later died,” the release said.
The case was presented to the grand jury after the investigation concluded and upon receiving the final autopsy report from the Medical Examiner’s Office, the release said.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert said felony murder is “very seldomly” charged in connection with fatal overdoses under current law, which requires police to closely link the substance that caused the fatal overdose to a suspect who supplied it.
“It’s possible to do it, but we don’t do it very often,” Ebert said Thursday, shortly after the indictment was announced.
In this case, Ebert said, “the evidence is sufficient to justify the charge.”
Ebert said it is more difficult to charge felony homicide in connection with a fatal drug overdose when the person who supplied the drugs is not present at the time of the overdose death. Ebert would not disclose, however, if Chukuka and Belotti were with Lueker when he died.
Virginia lawmakers debated earlier this year the issue of whether drug dealers or others should be charged with felony homicide if they supply drugs linked to fatal overdoses.
The General Assembly passed House Bill 2528, dubbed “Amanda’s Law,” which would have allowed anyone who made, distributed or gave a Schedule I or II drug to a person who died from its effects to be charged with felony homicide. Del. Tim Hugo, R-40th, whose district includes part of Prince William County, introduced the bill.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) vetoed the bill on Thursday, May 2. In explaining the move, Northam, who is also a physician, said, “This bill goes beyond drug dealers and would punish individuals who are themselves struggling with addiction.”
Northam said the expansion of the existing law under Hugo’s bill would have made an individual “criminally liable for murder even if the overdose occurred days or even months after the deceased received the drugs.”
Before he vetoed the bill, Northam proposed an amendment that would have offered legal protections if an attempt was made to get medical aid to a person overdosing and if the defendant remained at the scene until police arrived. The Virginia House of Delegates defeated the amendment in April in a 51-to-47 vote.