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Man sentenced in drug overdose death

A 31-year-old Ridgecrest man charged in the overdose death of a Hendersonville man was sentenced to 23 years in prison after pleading guilty in Henderson County Superior Court to second degree murder and drug trafficking, District Attorney Greg Newman announced on Tuesday.

Judge Thomas Davis sentenced Ramon Ortiz Flores to 15 years on the murder charge and an additional 8 years for Trafficking in Methamphetamine. Judge Davis also imposed a $50,000 fine. Assistant District Attorney Heather Brittain appeared for the state.

Flores was responsible for supplying heroin to Timothy Smith of 620 N. Main Street in Hendersonville on May 20, 2018, Newman said. The following day, the Hendersonville Police were dispatched to a possible drug overdose death found Smith at his home. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was alprazolam and fentanyl toxicity and autopsy results showed the level of fentanyl in Smith’s body was extremely high.

The police investigated and found that Smith purchased heroin from Flores on the property of Wal-Mart on May 20, 2018. Surveillance video provided by Wal-Mart verified the meeting and transaction on that date. Smith used some of the heroin on the evening of May 20. The next day, Smith called his girlfriend and asked her if more heroin was in the home. He admitted to her that he had consumed alprazolam, and she told him to only use a small amount of heroin since another narcotic was introduced into his system.

When Smith’s girlfriend returned home from work around 2 p.m., she found him unconscious and called a friend. The friend contacted the defendant, Flores, who came to the victim’s residence and administered Narcan to Smith, which is used to revive overdose victims. Smith could not be revived and Flores told Smith’s girlfriend to delete all messages on Smith’s phone showing communication between Smith and Flores.

“The Hendersonville Police did an excellent job obtaining the evidence that led to the drug supplier,” Newman said. “Smith thought he was purchasing heroin, but what he bought and consumed was fentanyl. Fentanyl causes respiratory distress when taken in high doses. Also, if taken with other substances — in this case alprazolam — it will kill you. Alprazolam was also found in Smith’s system and it is a controlled narcotic typically used to treat depression or anxiety.”

“I have taken the position in overdose cases that we will indict drug dealers if we can link them to the overdose victims," Newman added. "The dealers must own the consequences of their actions and our communities should not have to tolerate the devastation caused by their crimes."