Trial begins for man charged with selling heroin that caused overdose death

Harold Wayne Salyers gave younger women who were addicts heroin in exchange for sex and companionship, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday at Salyers' trial.

But it was a charge of distribution of heroin to a man in Clark County who died of an overdose in 2012 that led to a federal charge of distribution of heroin resulting in death. Salyers could face 20 years to life in prison if convicted.

Salyers is on trial in U.S. District Court in Lexington for providing the heroin that caused the death of Wade Dickerson, 49, in August 2012 at a Clark County hospital, a day after he injected heroin and became unresponsive, according to testimony. Dickerson had heroin and some prescription drugs in his system when he died, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Bradbury told the jury.

Bradbury said Tuesday in an opening statement that the government would prove that Salyers, 53, of Clark County, was a heroin dealer. He said police found heroin in a search of Salyers' home after Dickerson's death and found more than $5,000 cash in his tool box at the auto garage where he worked.

In addition to distribution of heroin resulting in death, Salyers is charged with one count each of conspiracy to distribute heroin, distributing heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

Bradbury said Salyers made multiple trips to Cincinnati to buy heroin to sell and to give to young women in exchange for sex.

Bradbury said Salyers either sold or provided heroin to Dickerson, who did not intentionally overdose. Dickerson was a heroin addict, Bradbury told the jury, but he was a "human being" who had a family who loved him.

Bradbury said that even after Dickerson's death, Salyers continued to deal heroin.

Bradbury said a Cincinnati dealer nicknamed "Money" gave Salyers the heroin that he gave Dickerson.

Salyers was not a heroin addict, Bradbury said; he dealt in heroin for what he could get in exchange. Bradbury said that after Dickerson overdosed, Salyers asked a friend of Dickerson's if she knew anyone else who wanted some heroin, because he had some left.

On Tuesday, prosecutors played a tape of Salyers acknowledging in a telephone call to Dickerson's friend that he sold heroin to Dickerson two days before he overdosed. The jury also saw a videotaped police interview in which Salyers initially appeared to lie to Winchester police about providing heroin to Dickerson.

Winchester police Sgt. Tom Beall testified that he spoke to people who were with Dickerson when he overdosed, and they told him that Salyers provided heroin to Dickerson.

Both Bradbury and Salyers' attorney, Pam Ledgewood, said Tuesday that Salyers acknowledged that he gave Dickerson heroin.

Ledgewood told the jury that during the trial, they would be introduced to a disturbing world of immorality and illegality.

She told jurors that she didn't expect them to like Salyers.

Ledgewood said in an interview outside the courtroom that prosecutors have to prove beyond a doubt that the heroin that Salyers sold Dickerson caused his death. Court documents filed by Ledgewood say the government has the burden of proving that Salyers knew or should have known that death or serious injury would result from the use of the heroin.

The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the heroin distributed by Salyers resulted in the death of Dickerson, and that the death was "reasonably foreseeable to the defendant," according to proposed jury instructions filed by Ledgewood.

A document that she filed said that a woman will testify that she warned Dickerson that the amount of heroin he was injecting was unsafe, but that he took it anyway.