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Middleman in Knox Fatal Drug Overdose Deal Gets 8 Years in Prison

A middleman in a drug sale that turned out to be fatal for a 20-year-old Knoxville heroin addict is headed to prison.

Knox County Criminal Court Judge Scott Green on Monday sentenced Scott Edward Roberts, 40, to eight years in prison on a charge of facilitation of second-degree murder as part of a plea agreement in the October 2014 overdose death of Anthony Joe Powers.

Powers was found dead inside his car in the parking lot of the Knoxville Billiards Club on Chapman Highway. According to Assistant District Attorney General Sean McDermott, police also found inside the vehicle a syringe, a soft drink can with drug residue on it and a belt used as a tourniquet.

McDermott sent the items to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab, which found traces of heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opiate more powerful in its effects than oxycodone or morphine.

Knox County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan conducted an autopsy and determined Powell died from a fentanyl overdose, McDermott said.

Knoxville Police Department Investigator Josh Shaffer, who specializes in drug investigations, helmed the probe of Powers' death. Through various interviews, Shaffer learned Roberts might have supplied the fatal mixture of heroin and fentanyl to Powers, according to McDermott.

Shaffer interviewed Roberts, who denied directly supplying the drugs but conceded he put Powers in touch with a drug dealer in South Knoxville.

'Roberts said he arranged a meeting between Powers and this other individual at the Kenjo Market in South Knoxville,' McDermott said.

But Roberts also knew there was something strange about the heroin the dealer was peddling, having been a customer himself, McDermott told the judge.

'Roberts said he purchased heroin from the same individual, and, when he used the heroin, it made his body burn and he thought he was going to die,' McDermott said.

McDermott said heroin mixed with fentanyl is deadly not only because of the potency of the drug cocktail but because the user — and sometimes even the dealer — doesn't know the synthetic opiate is present.

'If an addict believes they are taking their normal dose of heroin, and they are actually ingesting fentanyl, there is a substantial risk that the much stronger fentanyl will kill them,' McDermott said.

It was not clear from the details presented by McDermott whether Shaffer also has tracked down the dealer or whether there is a separate investigation involving the dealer.

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