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.

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

(1) comment

AGoodking

Going after the wrong people. Just a schlubb selling drugs, probably seeling drugs to feed his own habit. The distributor that sold the drugs to him, for him to sell - most likely the one who mixed the fentanyl in - is who they should be hunting. If these small time, street corner dealers can't get drugs to sell, because their distributor in prison, THAT is what will get the drugs off the streets. VERY small fish, yet y'all are touting it like you convicted the kingpin.

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