Crime & Courts

Washington state man charged with manslaughter in Skagway’s first known fatal ODs from fentanyl

A 32-year-old Washington state man was arrested this week on manslaughter charges linked to the overdose deaths last year of two Skagway residents.

Authorities say Jacob D. Cotton shipped fentanyl to one of the two men who died by overdose in January 2023, according to a probable cause statement filed Monday with criminal charges. The other man, a friend of both men, overdosed the next day, the statement said. Cotton communicated by Facebook messenger with the first man and shipped the pills via U.S. mail from Spokane to Skagway, it said.

The fatal overdoses of Anthony Bowers one day and James Cook the next marked the first known deaths in Skagway linked to fentanyl, according to reporting by KHNS public radio. The community of just over 1,100 residents on the northern tip of the Inside Passage played host to a record 1.2 million cruise passengers last year.

Alaska saw 342 fatal overdoses in 2023, with the highest year-to-year increase in the country. Fentanyl — a cheap, potent synthetic opioid that has in recent years replaced heroin as the state’s deadliest drug — accounted for about three-fourths of those deaths.

The two Skagway men who died after ingesting the pills were former coworkers of Cotton, according to the probable cause statement.

Cotton, in a message to Bowers, warned of the potency of the pills, the statement said. They talked about Bowers selling the pills to help pay for an engagement ring, it said.

Cotton is facing charges of felony manslaughter and second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. As of Friday, he was being held at Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau on $150,000 bail, according to documents filed in the case.