Man charged with murder after O.D. -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Man charged with murder after O.D.

January 22, 2003


Douglas-  Coffee County's sheriff calls it a new approach to fighting the war on drugs. Thirty-year-old Thomas Powell will be tried for the murder of a Coffee County teenager, though he was miles away at the time of Chad Merritt's death, because authorities say he sold the deadly drugs.

Prosecutors hope to send Powell to prison in this very unique murder charge. Powell spends his days at the Coffee County Jail without bond. He is charged with murdering 19-year-old Chad Merritt.

Merritt died at his home on Sidney Adams Road in September. Coffee County's sheriff admits Powell was nowhere near, and likely never layed a finger on Merritt, but he still says he's a murderer for one reason-- drugs.

"Georgia law says if you act in the commission of a felony you can be charged with murder we're going to use that law," said Coffee Co. Sheriff Rob Smith.

Once they figured out Merritt died of an acute overdose of cocaine while experimenting with the drug, they decided to go after the person sho supplied the drugs for felony murder for the first time in this County, this circuit, and as far as the D. A. knows-- the State.

They got the family's blessing with the condtion that they not release the dead man’s name. "I've got their blessing, got the D.A.'s blessing, and we’re trying to work together, and hope it will never happen again to another young person."

The sheriff is confident they'll win this case, and treat every drug overdose in the county as a murder from this day forward. "If drug dealers act in this nature, they need to be held accountable and that's what we're doing," said Smith. "We're hardcore, ready to go to court."

Powell's case will go before a grand jury early next month. We should point out the felony murder has been on the books for several years in Georgia, it just has not been used often, if at all, to go after drug dealers. It's designed to prosecute felons for murder even if they didn't set out to kill anyone.

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