Skip to main Content

Troopers: Soldotna manslaughter suspect said he sold methadone to overdose victim

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: July 8, 2016
  • Published June 24, 2016

An alleged drug dealer charged with manslaughter in the December death of a Soldotna man admitted selling drugs to the victim the night before he died, according to charging documents in the case.

Richard Paul Morrison, 37, is also charged with two counts of misconduct involving controlled substances in connection with 37-year-old Jeremy Vandever's fatal overdose. Troopers had previously said a drug distributed by Morrison "directly resulted in Vandever's death."

According to a criminal complaint against Morrison written by trooper Sgt. Robert L. Hunter, troopers responded on Dec. 30 to the home where Vandever had died. They noted he had 5 1/2 methadone pills on hand, as well as a plastic baggie.

An autopsy by the State Medical Examiner's Office found Vandever had been suffering from pneumonia. It also discovered high levels of both methadone and a substance formed by metabolizing methadone in his blood.

"As a result of the autopsy and toxicology analysis, Vandever's manner of death was classified as an accident, citing acute toxic effects of methadone," Hunter wrote. "The levels of methadone and subsequent metabolite were reported to be of lethal levels."

During the investigation, Vandever's daughter told troopers on the night of Dec. 29, Vandever "went out into the driveway and met with (Morrison) for approximately five minutes before coming back into the house."

That revelation made Morrison one of Soldotna troopers' targets in a January drug-crime dragnet. He now faces more than a dozen counts in his original case including reckless endangerment, as well as felony misconduct involving controlled substances and weapons.

Hunter said Morrison corroborated the account from Vandever's daughter in an interview shortly after his arrest, claiming he had sold Vandever "three or so pills" for $20 apiece.

"During that interview (Morrison) stated to Sgt. (Eugene) Fowler that his fingerprints would be found on the baggie that was with Vandever and that he had sold the pills to Vandever on the evening of his death," Hunter wrote. "Morrison further stated he didn't know what kind of pills they were, he was just giving Vandever something for his pain."

Morrison remained in custody Friday at the Wildwood Pretrial Facility, according to an Alaska inmate database.

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.