Crime & Courts

North Pole woman charged with manslaughter after man’s fatal fentanyl overdose

A North Pole woman is facing a manslaughter charge linked to accusations she sold drugs to a man who then overdosed and died, according to charging documents.

Samantha Lynn Pearson, 35, told investigators she believed she was selling heroin, but a high level of fentanyl was found in the blood of the man who had ingested the drugs, according to charges filed Friday in Fairbanks by Assistant District Attorney Katholyn Runnels.

Overdose deaths in Alaska have risen with the rising prominence of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be lethal even in small amounts. In 2021, Alaska reported the largest increase in overdose deaths of any state, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pearson’s arrest came after first responders found a 32-year-old man unconscious at a single-vehicle car accident in late June, the charges said. The man had drug paraphernalia near him, the charges said, and he was revived by Narcan, which is an opioid overdose reversal drug. He was brought to the hospital.

[Other Alaska law enforcement agencies carry Narcan. Why don’t Anchorage police?]

The man’s family found Pearson through his phone and when they contacted her, she told them she had sold him heroin, Runnels wrote.

The man’s blood showed high levels of fentanyl and he was taken off life support about 10 days after the initial overdose, the charges said. He died the next day.

In an interview this month with troopers, Pearson said she had been “fronted” an ounce of what she was told was heroin by a Fairbanks man, the charges said. She then sold a quarter of a gram from that supply to the man who overdosed, the charges said.

The man who Pearson said she received the drugs from was arrested in July and indicted on charges including one that indicates he had manufactured or delivered heroin.

Pearson was arrested Friday on charges of manslaughter and second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. She is being held at the Fairbanks Correctional Center.

The investigation is ongoing, said troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel. More charges may be filed, he said.

The public defender representing Pearson could not immediately be reached.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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