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Knox Drug Dealer Nets 10-Year Prison Term in Overdose Death

A South Knoxville drug dealer was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to the March 2017 overdose death of his customer.

Aaron Michael Watson, 25, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and other charges as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors before Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword. He initially was indicted on charges including second-degree murder.

Investigators determined Watson had sold Oxymorphone to 43-year-old Darian G. Kirby, who was found unconscious at a Chapman Highway gas station. Kirby later was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Science of Opioids

Over the following days, Knoxville police made two controlled drug buys from Watson using informants, leading to his arrest. A search warrant then was served at Watson's Sevierville Pike home — located within 1,000 feet of Anderson Elementary School — where authorities seized approximately 30 Oxymorphone pills, a half-pound of marijuana, several firearms and assorted drug paraphernalia, according to court records.

Another 29 Oxymorphone tablets hidden in a plastic baggie inside Watson's rectum were discovered during a strip search as he was being booked at the Knox County Detention Facility.

Watson, who has no previous local criminal history, also pleaded guilty Tuesday to three counts of sale of a Schedule II controlled substance, possession of Oxymorphone, possession of marijuana, possession of a firearm with intent to go armed and introduction of contraband into a penal facility. Additionally, he received a $10,000 fine.

Watson will be eligible for parole in three years.

As part of a Drug Related Task Force of local authorities, Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen's office has made such prosecutions a priority amid the county's — and the nation's — growing opioid epidemic.

Knox County recorded 293 suspected overdose deaths in 2017. Another 196 deaths have followed so far this year — including six during the month of August.

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