Overdose deaths in Seminole County have jumped in two years from just four in 2015 to 34 last year, according to numbers from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
Those statistics are why the state attorney and local law enforcement are leading the way when it comes to charging drug dealers with homicide in those deaths.
Two men were recently arrested for the crime in the past two days and eight people have been charged since 2016.
The law changed in October when it comes to prosecuting dealers, but Seminole County has been doing this for a couple of years.
The state attorney's office said the law has always made it possible to charge dealers who sell these deadly drugs with homicide. The change removed a step in the process making it easier to charge people who sell dangerous drugs that kill people.
Nelson Larregui became the eighth person in Seminole County to be charged with homicide in connection with an overdose death.
Investigators said the victim died in October from taking drugs he bought from Larregui.
"We were able to get from the medical examiner’s office that indeed this young man had died from a combination of heroin and fentanyl,” said Bob Kealing of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
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The deadly combination prompted Seminole County law enforcement to charge drug dealers with stiffer penalties.
“Send a message to these dealers that if you deal heroin, if you deal fentanyl you now run the risk of spending your life behind bars,” said Kealing.
Since August 2016, the state attorney in Seminole County has indicted six people on homicide charges; all but one of those six continue to have their cases move through the court system.
Alex Lindsey, the first case tried by prosecutors, accepted a plea deal and is currently serving 10 years for manslaughter.
Assistant State Attorney Dan Faggard said some people, including Lindsey, deserve a life sentence.
"Does the dealer, who is callous and uncaring and knows at any moment he or she could kill three people a day, deserve life in prison? Yeah, that person does,” he said.
Faggard said Seminole County is successful at bringing these charges to prosecution because they have changed their response to these cases.
"Those changes have helped our already-capable investigators," he said.
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