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Woman Faces Murder Charge in Fentanyl Overdose Death, Knox Sheriff Says

A 27-year-old woman faces a second-degree murder charge after Knox County authorities say she gave the powerful painkiller fentanyl to a man who overdosed and died.

Grace Ellen Milner was arrested Wednesday morning in Crossville, according to Knox County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kimberly Glenn.

Milner is accused of giving Charlie Agee, 25, the dose of fentanyl that led to his death. She allegedly gave him the drug on March 6 of this year, and he died three days later, Glenn said.

In addition to the murder charge, a grand jury in Knoxville indicted Milner on a charge of delivery of a controlled substance. Her bond has been set at $200,000.

'The best at the worst things'

A special provision in Tennessee law allows prosecutors to seek a second-degree murder charge in a death "that results from the unlawful distribution" of particularly lethal drugs if they can link the fatal dose to a specific supplier.

Local authorities have made such prosecutions a priority as the opioid crisis has worsened in recent years. Last year, a new task force began aggressively pursuing murder charges in overdose deaths. Police started responding to every reported overdose, collecting evidence such as cellphones and treating each location as a crime scene.

"There's no part of the country that can match our agony in this," Joel Reece, Tennessee state director of Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, said when the task force was announced. "We've always been the best at the worst things."

Nearly 300 overdose deaths were recorded in Knox County in 2017, spurring 172 homicide investigations that led to 11 suspected drug dealers being charged with homicide, according to the Knox County District Attorney General's Office.

Fentanyl now deadliest drug in US

Fentanyl and its analogues have rapidly become more prevalent in East Tennessee; in 2016 and 2017, the drugs were the most common culprits in drug-related deaths in Knox and Anderson counties, according to reports from the Knox County Regional Forensic Center.

The rise of fentanyl locally corresponds with a national trend. On Wednesday, federal officials announced fentanyl — for the first time — had overtaken heroin as the country's deadliest drug. More than 18,000 fentanyl overdose deaths were recorded in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, USA TODAY reported.

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