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Police: Heroin use like ‘Russian roulette’; two suspects in drug deaths in custody

Posted 9/6/17

“This heroin epidemic is so out of control.” 

Lower Swatara police Detective Robert Appleby’s assessment came on the heels of two men who were wanted in township heroin …

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Police: Heroin use like ‘Russian roulette’; two suspects in drug deaths in custody

Posted

“This heroin epidemic is so out of control.” 

Lower Swatara police Detective Robert Appleby’s assessment came on the heels of two men who were wanted in township heroin deaths being taken into custody last week.

“It’s Russian roulette really these days with people buying and using heroin,” he said.

Many of the people who are dying from these overdoses had no other medical condition, he said.

They are buying what they think is heroin to get high, and getting pure fentanyl that is “100 times more powerful than morphine,” Appleby said. 

Lower Swatara police have administered Naloxone 11 times since township commissioners authorized police to carry the drug, which is known to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Middletown police have been carrying Naloxone since August 2016.  Borough police did not have a total figure for how many times police have administered Naloxone since then. 

But so far in 2017 two heroin overdoses have been reversed by Middletown police administering Naloxone, according to figures provided by police. In one of the overdose saves, Naloxone was also administered by emergency medical service personnel.

In 2016 Middletown police reported five heroin overdoses being reversed through Naloxone. In three cases the overdose was reversed by Naloxone administered by police, while in two of the cases the Naloxone was provided and administered by EMS, according to borough police. 

Naloxone has been available for school nurses to use in schools throughout Middletown Area School District since the start of the 2016-17 school year, following an approval that the school board gave in June 2016. However, to date there have been no cases where it was necessary for school nurses or other district personnel to administer Naloxone, Superintendent Lori Suski told the Press & Journal.

The two men arrested last week for their role in the two overdoses in Lower Swatara are:

• Matthew “Giant “Header, 46, of Dalmatia. He was captured in Cleburne County, Alabama, on Tuesday, Aug. 29. He was wanted by Lower Swatara Township police since May for allegedly providing the heroin that led to the death of a township man in July 2016.

• Christopher Theurer, 41, of the 2000 block of Market Street Extended. He allegedly supplied heroin that led to the overdose of a woman Feb. 2. He turned himself into police on Monday, Aug. 28. 

Theurer and Header are friends of each other, said Appleby, who along with Lower Swatara Police Detective Ryan Gartland has been investigating drug overdose deaths in Lower Swatara “pretty steadily.”

“Giant” under arrest

Header will be extradited back to Pennsylvania.

Township police believe that Header fled Pennsylvania shortly after the July 2016 overdose occurred, Appleby said.

"We started to get tips that he was down South. We had heard Georgia, then got confirmation that he was in Alabama,” Appleby told the Press & Journal.

Authorities in Alabama had Header in custody at one point, but Header got away by using a false identity that was actually his brother.

Eventually, local police were alerted to Header being in a residence in Heflin, Alabama.

“People could see him in the house and they knew he was wanted. Their street crimes unit surrounded the house waiting for him to come out. He’s 6 feet 9 so he’s kind of hard to miss,” Appleby said. “It was probably about three or four days later that we got the call that they got him.”

Appleby could not say how soon Header will be brought back to Pennsylvania. Heflin police may have brought their own charges against Header, but of that Appleby was not certain.

Once Header does arrive, he will be arraigned on the charges on the outstanding warrant dating to May 24 — drug delivery resulting in death, and manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver.

Those charges were the result of a 10-month investigation that started July 24, 2016, when Lower Swatara police responded to a 36-year-old township man who died of a heroin overdose in the first block of Nissley Drive.

Police will ask for a high bail to keep Header in Dauphin County Prison, as he is an obvious flight risk, Appleby said. 

Theurer free on bail

Theurer was arraigned before District Judge Kenneth A. Lenker on the charges of drug delivery resulting in death, and manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver.

Theurer was freed after posting $25,000 bail. He must live with his parents and submit to regular drug tests among conditions of his release, Gartland said. He led the investigation resulting in the warrant being issued for Theurer’s arrest on Aug. 22.

A preliminary hearing for Theurer will be Oct. 4 before District Judge Michael Smith.

The woman overdosed on heroin while she was in a campsite along Swatara Park Road in the township, police said in court papers filed with Smith. Police administered Naloxone to the woman, but she died three days later at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The woman’s death was caused by acute morphine and fentanyl toxicity, according to toxicology results obtained by township police on July 25 through Dauphin County Medical Examiner Dr. Wayne K. Ross.

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