Franklin County heroin overdoses increase in 2014

Written by Jim Hook, Public Opinion Online | Feb 26, 2015 1:18 PM

It was more common in Franklin County last year to die of a heroin overdose than to die from a fall.  

Ten people in 2014 died in accidental deaths involving heroin, according to the Franklin County coroner's annual report.  

The county had as many heroin-related deaths in 2014 as total number of fatal overdoses from legal and illegal drugs in 2006. Accidental deaths from drugs have doubled over that period.  

Traffic fatalities, meanwhile, declined by roughly 21 percent -- from 23 in 2006 to 18 in 2014.  

Coroner Jeffrey Conner annually posts his official record in the county prothonotary's office. The record consists of a tally sheet and single-page reports of every death investigation.  

Conner blamed overdoses for the rise in death investigations and autopsies. His office conducted a record 162 death investigations in 2014, five more than in the previous year. He ordered 61 autopsies in 2014, up from a previous high of 54 in 2011.  

Prior to 2014, the county averaged two heroin-related deaths a year, according to Conner. Some fatal overdoses involve more than one drug.  

All of the eight confirmed heroin cases occurred before October. Two cases are pending, according to Conner.  

Conner confirmed 11 deaths from prescription drugs in 2014 and nine from illegal substances.  

Fatal overdoses also outnumbered homicides last year.  The deaths of two children are included among county's five homicides in 2014:  

  • Billy Travis, 7, died on June 11 three years after his stepmother, Michele Hunter, threw him on the ground, causing irreversible brain damage, according to police. Convicted of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of children, Hunter was charged in October with homicide.  
  • Kaendra Destinvil, a three-month-old infant, was pronounced dead on Aug. 20 at Chambersburg Hospital. Emergency medical personnel responding to a call for a cardiac arrest found an unresponsive baby with bruises and abrasions, police said. The babysitter, 18-year-old Rosanna Desinor of Chambersburg, is charged with criminal homicide. Her trial has been set for July.  

The county had three other homicides in 2014:  

  • Timothy "Asti" Davison, 28, of Poland, Maine, was run off Interstate 81 near Greencastle around 2 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2014, police said. He was shot several times. The chasing vehicle, believed to be a dark lapis blue Ford Ranger pick-up truck, went south on I-81. Rewards of $62,000 are offered for tips about the killing.  
  • Thomas Olson, 51, was shot on April 6 in Antrim Township and died the next day in York Hospital. Roy Alton Adams, 57, allegedly found his ex-wife with Olson, her boyfriend, police said. The two men fought and Adams shot Olson before fatally shooting himself.  
  • Lucas Coons, 22, was found dead of a gunshot wound to his chest on Nov. 26 in the back of a vehicle parked behind 336 Lincoln Way East, Chambersburg, police said. Barton Patrick Jones, 56, is charged with homicide. The shooting came after Coons tried to buy drugs from Jones with counterfeit money. Jones' 21-year-old son, Patrick Leroy Barton Holden, is also charged in connection with the death.

Conner reported 23 suicides, 69 natural deaths and three deaths of undetermined causes in 2014. Among the 56 accidental deaths, eight were by fall or fractures, three by asphyxia, one by fire and two farm accidents. Of the 18 traffic fatalities, four were motorcyclists and two were pedestrians. Six cases were pending at the time of the report.

This article appears through a partnership between Public Opinion Online and WITF.  

Jim Hook can be reached at 717-262-4759.

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