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Lawrenceville man is first drug dealer successfully prosecuted in Gwinnett on murder charges for drugs that caused overdose

A Lawrenceville man has become the first drug dealer in Gwinnett to be convicted and sentenced on murder charges for selling drugs that caused someone to die from an overdose.

Eric Denver Moore, 35, pled guilty to charges that he sold heroin laced with fentanyl and carfentanyl to Grayson resident Alan Moser in July 2019, officials from the District Attorney’s Office announced at a press conference on Friday. Moser died due to the lethal combination of the drugs.

District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson said Moore’s guilty plea — which resulted in him being sentenced to life with the first 30 years to serve in prison — is a major step in the fight against opioid use in Gwinnett County.

“We are united in this county to stop this situation with people dying from opioid overdoses, which includes fentanyl,” she said. “It’s been put out there where you might think you’re getting something off the street, but it’s not what you think it is. It could kill you.

“We’re talking about fentanyl overdoses, which my office has prosecuted. We are prosecuting drug dealers and any event we find out that someone died from an overdose and who they purchased it from, we are going after it.”

Moore was arrested Jan. 16, 2020 on charges of felony murder; VGCSA trafficking in morphine, opium or heroin four grams or more but less than 14 grams; VGCSA possession of methamphetamine; VGCSA possession of a schedule I controlled substance; VGCSA possession of a schedule II controlled substance; and possession and use of drug related objects — misdemeanor.

Deputy Chief District Attorney Brandon Delfunt said Moore pled guilty to the all of the charges as his trial was getting ready to begin this past week.

Delfunt said Moore pled guilty to most of the charges prior to jury selection beginning, leaving him to go on trial for murder. As jury selection was underway, however, he pled guilty to the murder charges as well, according to the prosecutor.

Delfunt was hesitant to say whether this was definitively the first time in the entire state that a drug dealer has been successfully prosecuted on a murder charge for causing the death of someone who overdosed on drugs that they sold, although he said he was not aware of similar cases.

He reiterated, however, that it is a landmark case for Gwinnett.

“This is the first case in Gwinnett County that we have prosecuted successfully to a verdict for felony murder for selling or distributing drugs,” Delfunt said. “There are some cases in Georgia in the past where there have been trials for those individuals, but the ones that I’m aware of have been for doctors who overprescribed certain prescription medications.

“This is the first one that I’m aware of for an elicit drug like heroin that was being sold and was ultimately laced with fentanyl and carfentanyl that caused the death of the victim in this case.”

There are seven similar cases that the District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting against drug dealers on felony murder cases. the earliest of those cases was set to go to trial next month, but Delfunt said it is being continued to either later in the year or sometime next year.

The felony murder charges are being pursued against the people selling the drugs because the selling of drugs is itself a felony crime. That provides a stepping stone prosecutors are using to build felony murder cases when those drugs result in a person’s death.

“It’s always been present (as a prosecuting option),” Delfunt said. “felony murder has been around as a statute for a long time. That’s how we’re prosecuting the cases. The felony murder statute basically requires that if somebody is in the commission of a felony, or during the commission of that felony, somebody dies as a result of that, as a direct result of that, they’re guilty of felony murder.”

The news that the DA’s office not only successfully prosecuted this case, but also plans to prosecute similar cases in this way was welcome news to law enforcement and the Gwinnett Medical Examiner’s Office.

Lawrenceville Police Chief Tim Wallis, who is also the president of the Gwinnett County Chiefs of Police organization, said there have been 161 deaths from overdoses in 2021, as of the end of August.

“We’ve had three this week that I know of, one right here in the city of Lawrenceville, so this is an issue for us,” Wallis said. “We even have a hotel here in the county that when people check into the hotel, they are distributing Narcan (a drug used to reverse the effects of an overdose) to them as they check in as part of their registration process.

“So, we continue to coordinate and collaborate with the prosecutors and the DA’s office to move forward with this.”

Gwinnett Medical Examiner Dr. Carol Terry said she has been raising the alarm bells on the rise of opioid deaths in the county for a few years. She said it only takes a very small amount of fentanyl and carfentanyl mixed in with opioids to cause a person’s death.

She compared the amount of fentanyl and carfentanyl needed to be present in the drug mix to be fatal to “grains of salt” and “grains of sand,” respectively.

“If someone has an addiction, please seek help because going out and continuing to buy these drugs off the street — it’s like playing Russian roulette,” Terry said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get. I don’t know if the people who are dealing the drugs know what they’re peddling, but there’s this dangerous stuff out there and it’s killing people, and its killing them at an alarming rate.”

That is why Austin-Gatson said her office is doing what it can to hit at the drug dealers.

“We know this is a bigger problem than just drug pushers, but we will do what we can to have an impact on this situation in our county,” Austin-Gatson said.

YMCA opens 'store' at JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett to teach kids about childcare costs

Junior Achievement of Georgia President John Hancock’s ties to efforts to raise awareness of the YMCA’s childcare programs go back a few decades — about 25 years, actually.

Back in the 1990s, when Hancock was still a graduate student working on his master’s degree, he co-wrote a presentation for a class project about the YMCA in Indianapolis. He and his classmates focused on the YMCA could expand and raise awareness of its child care program.

Fast forward a quarter of a century, and Hancock took a step to help the YMCA of Metro Atlanta do just that at the JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett located at Discovery High School in Lawrenceville on Friday.

“The fact that you would invest in our work as you have and give us an opportunity to highlight a really significant aspect of who you are — and help me extend my service learning project from 25 years ago — it’s great,” Hancock told YMCA officials.

YMCA of Metro Atlanta officials joined Junior Achievement of Georgia leaders on Friday morning for a ribbon cutting to officially open the YMCA “store” at in the JA finance Park at the JA Discover Center at Gwinnett.

YMCA of Metro Atlanta President Lauren Koontz said it wasn’t a hard sell for Junior Achievement officials to get her to agree to be a part of their Finance Parks at their Discovery Centers in the Atlanta area.

“When (the first Junior Achievement of Georgia center at the World Congress Center) opened, I don’t often say this (but) I was jealous,” Koontz said. “I was like, ‘That is the coolest concept I have ever seen. The Y needs to be a part of it, right?’

“And, it never occurred to me, even at this point until a few months ago, this past spring, that the Y would have the opportunity to be in these fabulous centers amongst all of these iconic brands and really representing the ethos of what the Y does in the community, which is to strengthen community whether you’re six weeks old or 100-year-old.”

JA Finance Park gives eighth-graders a chance to she what it’s like to plan a budget. The students are assigned a career and told how much they earn, and therefore must live within their means.

The students then go to the “storefronts,” each of which represents an expense — such as grocery costs, automotive repair costs, travel costs, cell phone costs, insurance costs or utilities costs — and figure out how to, based on the information they gain at each “storefront,” plan a monthly budget.

The JA Finance Park is in addition to a JA Biz Town program offered to sixth-graders to introduce them to how businesses work.

The YMCA “store” will illustrate the costs parents must pay to secure childcare for their kids.

“We are so pleased to welcome The YMCA – one of the most recognized and treasured brands in the world — as a new partner in our JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett,” Hancock said. “As the largest provider of childcare in America, the Y will represent this important aspect of the household budgeting exercise that our students experience in JA Finance Park.

“What an honor to work with an organization that has a similar mission and allows us to expand our impact further than we could on our own.”

The YMCA “storefront” shows that childcare for infants ranging from six weeks to 11 months can cost $275 per month. The costs for childcare for 1-year-olds is $250, for 2-year-olds it’s $235, for 3-year-olds it’s $225 and for 4-year-olds it’s $210.

“If you look at the average American household, childcare — to the degree that childcare is a thing, like you’ve got kids — would rank as the second biggest expense in a household budget, probably behind housing whether you’re renting or have a mortgage,” Hancock said.

“To not have that represented would be super counter intuitive and it would be a huge gap in the program.”

Koontz said the YMCA is a largest provider of childcare in the U.S. with programs such as early learning, after school and day camps. That is a major reason why she felt the nonprofit was a good fit to be in the JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett.

And, she called Junior Achievement a “fantastic partner” because of the way it’s set up to teach children how to deal with real world scenarios that their parents face.

“They’re creating this simulated experience over many months, or a year even, where kids are learning how to budget, how to work,” she said. “So that combination of having two nonprofits that are both so committed to youth and community, and to making sure all children have the experiences and skillsets they need to be successful, I just think there’s a lot of power in that, in bringing these two brands together to help impact children and families be prepared.”

Medical examiner: Preliminary results indicate Gwinnett police recruit died from hypertensive heart disease

A Gwinnett police recruit who died after experiencing a medical emergency during training on Tuesday had an existing heart condition that may have caused his death, according the county’s medical examiner.

Dr. Carol Terry said there are still some tests that her office is awaiting results on, so a final report on the cause of the death for police recruit Ronald Donat, 41, may not be ready for a month. The early results, however, point to an enlarged heart being a contributing factor, she said.

“We’ve got some testing outstanding but, preliminarily, it looks like he died as a result of his hypertensive heart disease,” Terry said. “He had an enlarged heart so, like I said, we’ve got some additional testing outstanding, including looking at tissues under the microscope, but preliminarily his heart was enlarged and that’s what it sounds like happened. He basically had a heart attack.”

Gwinnett police previously said Donat, who was a resident of Stockbridge, began experiencing medical issues during a physical training course at about 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday. He had just completed a pull-up portion of the training when he came lethargic and started to have issues, according to police officials.

He later died at a local hospital. It was his second day at the Gwinnett Police Training Academy.

On Tuesday, police said recruits undergo a medical evaluation and have to be cleared prior to starting at the academy. They said at the time that they did not have information on his medical history available at that time.

“(It appears it was) just physical exertion,” Terry said. “It’s shocking when it happens to someone that young, but unfortunately that’s what my office sees.”

On Tuesday, Gwinnett police officials said the department was evaluating its training standards and would ensure that “all recruits and pre-recruits follow their medical screening.”