Baldwin City man convicted of manslaughter for giving relative methadone for urine sample
photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office
In a urine sample-switching scheme that had unintended — and deadly — consequences, a Baldwin City man has now been convicted of involuntary manslaughter and distribution of methadone.
Justin R. Jones, 35, pleaded guilty to both felony charges on Friday in Douglas County District Court. Instead of proceeding to trial, which had been scheduled for later this month, Judge James McCabria set Jones’ sentencing for April 19.
Jones’ father-in-law, 47-year-old Eric S. Everts, was found dead in his bed at his Baldwin City home on Sept. 17, 2017.
Relatives and text messages gave police a possible explanation for Everts’ untimely death, according to an affidavit prepared by Baldwin City investigators:
For his treatment at an addiction center, Jones was supposed to be turning in urine samples with nothing in them but methadone, a synthetic drug often prescribed to treat opioid addiction.
For months Everts had been trying to help his son-in-law pass the tests by taking methadone provided by Jones and providing otherwise clean urine samples for Jones to submit as his own. The month before Everts died, he’d taken the methadone not once but twice.
Jones texted Everts asking for help and explaining he could be “kicked out” of treatment for failing the tests.
“You’re the only person I know,” one text said. “You have no idea how hard it is to find someone who hasn’t done anything. Lol.”
According to the police affidavit, an autopsy revealed methadone in Everts’ blood, and then-coroner Erik Mitchell concluded this: “Considering scene information, clinical history, anatomic findings, and toxicology results, cause of death is best explained as consequence of methadone exposure superimposed upon respiratory suppressive effects of sleep apnea.”
Jones was arrested in April 2018.
He initially was charged with distributing a controlled substance, causing a person’s death — a severity level 1 felony, as high as some categories of murder. The involuntary manslaughter conviction is a less-severe level 5 felony.
Though Jones also pleaded guilty to distributing methadone, two other drug-related felony charges were dismissed under the plea agreement.
Prosecutor Alice Walker said the state and Jones’ attorney agreed to recommend a sentence of 50 months, or just over four years, in prison. They believe Jones has little to no criminal history.
Jones remains free on $50,000 bond. Walker said the state anticipated he would be taken into custody at sentencing.
Jones’ lawyer, Christopher Joseph, said his client was currently taking methadone that he would need to cut back on slowly before it is “safe” for him to go into custody at the jail or prison, where the drug is not allowed.
“An abrupt stop is a problem, based on the literature I’ve seen,” Joseph said, adding that Jones planned to go to inpatient treatment and consult with a doctor.