PRICE — For the second time in as many months, Price police have arrested a suspected drug dealer in connection with the overdose death of a drug user.
Detectives were already looking for Jason Jered Jaimez — hoping to interview him about the Dec. 23 overdose death of a Price man — when officers were called about 11 a.m. Saturday to the Greenwell Inn, 655 E. Main, on a report of a domestic dispute.
"On the way there, (the officers) are probably assuming they are out-of-town people, not locals who rented a motel room," said Price Police Capt. Bill Barnes.
Jaimez, 37, and Jessica Tawn Jarvis, 34, are locals though, and police know them well, the captain said. In fact, a Carbon County sheriff's deputy who responded to the motel knew Helper police had recently served a search warrant at Jaimez's house and were actively looking for him.
The deputy found drug paraphernalia on Jaimez when he took him into custody at the request of Helper police, Barnes said. A Price officer also found drug paraphernalia near Jarvis, as well as methamphetamine in the motel room, the captain said.
"There was 10 ½ grams of meth in two separate baggies that were discovered," he said.
Jaimez and Jarvis were booked into jail for investigation of possession of a controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia based on the motel incident. Jaimez was also interviewed at the jail about the December drug overdose death.
"He provided the heroin that directly caused the overdose death in this case," Barnes said, noting that Jaimez allegedly admitted as much during his interview with a detective.
"I'm hopeful that his willingness to talk is indicative that he wants to make a change, knows he needs to make a change," the captain said.
Jaimez's arrest makes him the second person since late December to face the possibility of criminal charges in connection with a fatal drug overdose.
On Dec. 30, Alejandra “Ally” Dunn was booked into the Carbon County Jail for investigation of murder, distribution of a controlled substance and child endangerment.
Dunn's arrest followed nearly five months of investigation by detectives into the Aug. 3 death of a Salt Lake man who was living at a home in Price. Police believe Dunn, 26, provided the man with a controlled substance, then did nothing to help him when he went into medical distress.
"She should have known he was overdosing, but claims she didn't," Price Police Chief Kevin Drolc said, following Dunn's arrest. "The evidence shows she was responsible for his death."
She should have known he was overdosing, but claims she didn't. The evidence shows she was responsible for his death.
–Kevin Drolc, Price Police Chief
Barnes declined to identify either overdose victim. However, the Deseret News has confirmed that police believe Dunn is responsible for the death of 38-year-old Anthony Joseph Compton and Jaimez is responsible for the death of 47-year-old Trevor Jay "TJ" Whiteside.
No formal charges have been filed against Dunn or Jaimez in connection with the deaths. Carbon County prosecutor Jeremy Humes said he will review state law and prior court rulings before determining what charges, if any, should be filed.
"We'll be looking at, obviously, what the (state) code says, and then also what other jurisdictions have done with similar cases where a victim passes away as a result of the distribution of narcotics," Humes said.
"We have to look at every tool that's available to help those who deal with substance abuse," the prosecutor added. "And certainly on the supply side of things, we need to go after people who are providing narcotics to people."
Kent Hart, executive director of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, called the effort to prosecute alleged drug dealers for overdose deaths "counterproductive." He argues that the tactic will only lead more people to avoid calling for help when a drug user is in trouble.
"By prosecuting these two sellers, they're sending a message, at least in Carbon County, that you better not tell the police that you're (selling drugs) because you might get a murder charge or homicide charge on top of the drug sale," Hart said.
He conceded that there could be "a fact scenario" where it makes sense to charge someone for causing an overdose death, but Hart also noted there has been a recent shift in Utah away from punishing people who report medical emergencies arising from drug use.
The passage last month of HB11 is a prime example, Hart said. The bill provides limited criminal immunity for drug users who contact police or emergency personnel when someone is overdosing, and render other aid, like answering questions about what drugs were used.
The bill, which still needs Gov. Gary Herbert's signature before becoming law, also makes calling for help a mitigating factor at sentencing for crimes not covered under the limited immunity clause.
"It seems to me that the Legislature has declared that, as a policy matter, we want to encourage people to report these (incidents)," Hart said, calling the possible prosecution of the Dunn and Jaimez cases "the very example of why people don't."
Police and prosecutors aren't trying to discourage the reporting of overdoses, Barnes said. Instead, they're "using every tool we have" to put a stop to fatal overdoses, and hold people responsible for selling the drugs that cause them, the captain said.
"People are dying," Barnes said, "and that trumps any other concerns."