Sarasota Co. deputies charge heroin dealer with manslaughter

File photo- Heroin (Provided by the Lakeville, MN police department)

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – For the first time ever in Sarasota County, a drug-dealer is facing manslaughter charges for lacing heroin with carfentanil. It’s a dangerous and deadly concoction that is killing people throughout the Tampa Bay area.

Deputies said in August, Melissa Winings gave heroin to a 34-year-old man, who later died.

She was arrested and charged with drug trafficking, but as the investigation went on, deputies recovered a phone call she had had with her incarcerated boyfriend Robert Rigby.

“John OD’d again and I had to call my mom to come over with the Narcan,” Winings said in the call.

In the call, Winings was concerned about the recent overdose, so Rigby gives her instructions.

“I can’t discuss in detail what exactly I do, so it doesn’t matter,” said Winings.

“I can’t discuss in detail with you, but if I was to, I would say, like, you need to put a three and a half or a four on that,” Rigby replied.

“They were discussing, in code, how to cut heroin and fentanyl together, so it was less potent,” explained Captain John Walsh with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

Winings has now been charged with manslaughter. Officials said she knowingly sold drugs that were lethal.

“These cases are super difficult,” said Captain Walsh.

It takes a lot of investigative work, combined with the long wait for autopsy results, to pin these charges onto drug dealers.

PJ Brooks, with the drug recovery program First Step, said to win this nationwide epidemic, the community needs to help.

“In many respects, about 60 to 70 percent of the overdoses, someone knew that they were overdosing and chose not to call law enforcement,” said Brooks.

Brooks said this case just shows the severity of the heroin crisis.

“It just shows how far individuals who are using will go and what they’re willing to risk, because it’s so unpredictable, what they could be getting from their dealers,” explained Brooks.

The sheriff’s office said they’re doing everything they can to curb this heroin epidemic.

“If we can make one of these arrests, I don’t know how many lives we’ve probably saved,” said Walsh.


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