Jury finds drug dealer guilty in heroin overdose death

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comOctober 30, 2013 

Harold Wayne Salyers, who was charged with providing heroin that caused a 2012 Clark County overdose death, was found guilty Wednesday.

Salyers, 53, was found guilty on four counts shortly after 6 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Lexington. The jury had deliberated about three hours.

In addition to distribution of heroin resulting in death, Salyers was charged with one count each of conspiracy to distribute heroin, distributing heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin. He faces 20 years to life in prison.

Earlier Wednesday, defense attorney Pam Ledgewood told jurors in a closing statement that prosecutors had proven that Salyers was a drug dealer and that he provided Wade Dickerson, 49, with heroin in August 2012.

Ledgewood said, however, that prosecutors had not proven beyond doubt that Salyers provided Dickerson with the dose of heroin that caused his overdose death. She said that after Dickerson obtained heroin from Salyers, he could have gotten the fatal dose from other dealers.

U.S. Attorney Todd Bradbury, however, told the jury that the prosecution's evidence had proven that Salyers distributed the heroin that caused Dickerson's death.

Bradbury also said Dickerson's death in August 2012 did not stop Salyers from dealing. Salyers sold heroin at least six months afterwards, he said.

After Salyers learned that Dickerson had overdosed and was unresponsive and in the hospital, he asked one of Dickerson's friends whether anyone else wanted some of the heroin that he had, the prosecutor said.

Prosecutors did not have to prove that Salyers intended to cause Dickerson's death, or that he should have foreseen it, Bradbury told the jury Wednesday.

Salyers is among accused drug dealers who have recently faced federal charges in connection with overdose deaths in the Eastern District of Kentucky court. One man pleaded guilty to a charge earlier this year; a similar case is pending in Northern Kentucky.

Salyers was not an addict but exploited those who were, witnesses testified. Both Bradbury and Ledgewood said Tuesday that Salyers acknowledged giving heroin to Dickerson. Dickerson died the day after he overdosed and became unresponsive.

Bradbury said Salyers also gave heroin to younger women who were addicts in exchange for sex and companionship. Ledgewood, Salyers' attorney, told the jury that in the two-day trial, they had taken a "dark trip into a dark world."

However, Ledgewood said, that didn't mean Salyers provided the heroin that resulted in Dickerson's fatal overdose.

U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey said he hoped the verdict sent a message to other dealers: "Here in Central Kentucky we have a growing problem with heroin abuse. We are committed to using every tool available to law enforcement to combat this terrible problem," Harvey said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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