Suspected heroin dealer charged in ‘gray death' overdose

Authorities in Chester County have arrested a man after he allegedly delivered drugs containing carfentanil prior to the death of an overdose victim.

Damon A. Eskridge, 20, has been charged with possession with intent to deliver drugs, drug delivery resulting in death, and other related charges.

Back on July 4, Phoenixville Police were dispatched to a home for a possible heroin overdose. When they arrived on scene, they found an unresponsive 34-year-old man, who was later pronounced dead at the scene.

During a search of the man's bedroom, investigators discovered a number of empty heroin bags stamped 'New Arrival,' 'Chapo, and 'Wells Fargo.' A used hypodermic needle and four bags of 'New Arrival' still containing a substance believed to be heroin was also found at the scene.

Investigators then located the victim's cell phone and examined it to find that the victim had purchased the heroin from 'Kevin D.' The next day officers arranged to have that person deliver 12 bags of heroin to their car at St. Mary's Street and South Street.

When 'Kevin D' approached the car, he was taken into custody while in possession of twelve bags of heroin stamped 'New Arrival.' 'Kevin D' was then identified as Damon Eskridge. Eskridge was also in possession of six more 'New Arrival' bags, and $274 cash.

An autopsy of the overdose victim revealed the presence of carfentanil in his blood, and the coroner declared the cause of death was acute carfentanil toxicity.

The District Attorney's office says this was the first appearance of carfentanil, a synthetic narcotic used to tranquilize elephants, in Chester County. They added that Naloxone, the drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, has limited effect on the substance that has been nicknamed 'gray death.'

The DA's office says the charge of drug dealing resulting in death carries a maximum sentence of 20-40 years imprisonment. However, there are no mandatory minimum sentences in Pennsylvania and the state is uncertain how much prison time Eskridge will actually face.

Eskridge was held on $1 million cash bail, and remanded to Chester County Prison.