Man suspected of dealing fatal heroin dose appears in court

Vancouver woman died of overdose March 5

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: April 1, 2013, 5:24 PM

 

A Washougal man appeared Monday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of dealing a dose of heroin March 5 that killed a Vancouver woman.

Matthew M. Evans, 34, faces a charge of controlled-substance homicide at his April 12 arraignment.

He was held on $150,000 bail, based on his criminal history, which includes two counts of bail jumping, said Judge Daniel Stahnke. Vancouver attorney Gerald Wear was appointed to defend him.

Jamie L. Cortez, 33, died early March 6 of a heroin overdose at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Clark County sheriff’s detectives used a warrant to search her home for evidence tied to her death and found text messages on her phone that showed she had arranged to purchase heroin from Evans shortly before her overdose, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Court records indicate Evans confessed that he sold her a “10-piece” of heroin around 9 p.m. March. 5. A “10-piece” means a single heroin dose, which usually costs around $10, said Mike Cooke, commander of the Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force. A single dose may be fatal, depending on the purity of the heroin and the tolerance of the user, Cooke said.

Controlled substance homicide charges are “extremely rare,” said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Alan Harvey. One reason is that identifying an overdose victim’s dealer may not be possible.

There have been less than five controlled-substance homicide cases in Clark County in the past 10 years, Harvey said. He won a jury conviction of a dealer and a substantial prison sentence last year in one such case. Jerome Otto, 23, of Vancouver was sentenced to the maximum of 10 years in prison for dealing a fatal dose of heroin to 24-year-old Adam Hurd. The sentence was more severe than the standard range for that crime because the jury found that Otto showed a lack of remorse about Hurd’s death.

Otto’s accomplice, Brittany Sonnen, 26, was sentenced to more than five years in prison for controlled-substance homicide, as part of a plea agreement.

Skyrocketing heroin use is a growing concern for law enforcement and prosecutors. In the last seven years, the number of heroin cases in Clark County more than quintupled, from 36 cases in 2007 to 198 in 2012, according to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.