Two Men Sentenced in Fatal Fentanyl Overdose of Bristol, Tenn. Woman
Two people will serve prison time for giving fentanyl, a potent painkiller, to a Bristol, Tennessee, woman who overdosed and died in 2017.
Mario Ambrosio Lewis, 34, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Greeneville and will serve 20 years in federal prison.
Lewis previously pleaded guilty to distributing fentanyl to Calvin Richard Campbell, 39, who admitted to Bristol police that he provided the drug to his niece.
Campbell, who is currently serving a 15-year-prison sentence on a second-degree murder charge in Sullivan County, identified Lewis as his heroin supplier and source of the fentanyl, which resulted in the April 23, 2017, death of Andrea Gail Rodefer, 31.
Rodefer, originally from Bristol, was living at the time in Knoxville.
“But she was at her grandmother’s home [in Bristol], and she overdosed as a result of ingesting fentanyl,” said Sullivan County Deputy District Attorney General Gene Perrin.
When Rodefer’s body was discovered, Bristol police opened an investigation to determine the circumstances, Perrin said. At some point, the Second Judicial Drug Task Force joined the investigation.
“The fentanyl got to Ms. Rodefer by way of her uncle, Calvin Richard Campbell,” Perrin said. “The fentanyl that killed her, I am confident, came from Mario Lewis, who was the distributor in Atlanta who had Mr. Campbell and several other individuals in this region trafficking his drugs for him.”
Lewis had been distributing fentanyl and other drugs in the Tri-Cities region for some time, Perrin said.
“Through information [Campbell] provided, our drug agents, posing as individuals associated with Mr. Campbell, were able to contact Mr. Mario Lewis and order through the internet and mail packages of drugs that he sent to Sullivan County,” Perrin said.
“Money would be wired to him, and he would send the drugs up here.”
Fentanyl, which is described as 50 times as potent as heroin, has resulted in a number of overdoses in recent years in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
Perrin said the drugs are brought to the area by dealers, mules, who transport the drugs for dealers, and mail carriers.
In 2018, Perrin counted at least one dozen fatal fentanyl overdoses in Sullivan County. But for every fatal overdose, Perrin said there are likely 13 other unreported fentanyl overdoses.
“Fentanyl is so dangerous because of its potency and because it is either being mixed with other drugs or sold under the pretext of being another drug,” Perrin said. “It is a game-changer. It is taking many, many lives of citizens throughout this region.”
U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey commended investigators on their dedication and tenacity in the case.
Overbey added that law enforcement agencies are facing more and more cases where drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with other illegal drugs to increase profits. This business decision by drug dealers sometimes has deadly consequences. Often, users and lower-level dealers are not aware that the drugs contain fentanyl, a point also noted by Perrin.
Since Rodefer’s death, the Drug Overdose Death Task Force has been formed in Sullivan County. The task force is headed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and funded by grants from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Initiative. The District Attorney’s Office and all other law enforcement in Sullivan County have partnered with TBI under this initiative to aggressively identify and target those who place profit above the value of human life.
On July 1, 2018, Perrin noted that Tennessee law changed so prosecutors can charge people with second-degree murder if a person dies as the result of fentanyl, whether it involves a mixture with other drugs or not.
“In Ms. Rodefer’s case, it was straight fentanyl,” Perrin said.
Perrin said he’s pleased with the state and federal prosecutions in the case and that justice has been done.
“It was a very difficult case for this family,” he added, noting that one family member died and another has been jailed.
Campbell and Lewis have lengthy criminal histories, including drug charges in Georgia. Both remain incarcerated.