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Manslaughter charges requested in inmate death

June 2, 2011

Spokane County Sheriff’s major crimes detectives will seek criminal charges against an inmate they say provided a legend drug to a second inmate who used them to commit suicide last fall.
In his affidavit requesting criminal charges, detectives wrote that given the totality of the evidence, probable cause exists to charge Ronald F. Edwards with one count of delivery of a legend drug and one count of second-degree manslaughter.
On Sept. 20, Corrections Deputy Janice Nuxoll-Zollars found inmate Christopher Devlin dead in his cell.
Devlin was convicted in Stevens County Superior Court on Aug. 18, 2010, in the May 2008 killing of Daniel Heily, whose body was left in a pickup truck parked behind the Deer Park Liquor Store.
Heily was set to testify against Devlin for a 2006 incident where Devlin had allegedly broke into a home and assaulted the homeowner.
The day before Heily was supposed to appear in court, Devlin shot him in an area in south Stevens County.
Spokane County deputies discovered the body while trying to issue a material witness warrant to Heily.
Devlin was sentenced to life in prison without parole a week before his death.
During the subsequent investigation, Detective Lyle Johnston found a white paper bindle inside Devlin’s mattress that contained an amitriptyline tablet. He also found eight empty bindles in Devlin’s trash basket.
During autopsy, Medical Examiner Dr. John Howard determined that Devlin’s death was caused by amitriptyline toxicity and ruled the manner of death a suicide.
Amitriptyline is a legend drug available only by prescription. Detective Mike Ricketts determined that Devlin frequently spent time with another inmate, 41-year-old Edwards, when the two were out of their cells.
Detective Mike Ricketts obtained a search warrant for Spokane County Jail medical records belonging to Edwards and to obtain his DNA. He learned that Edwards had been prescribed the drug at the time of Devlin’s death and that the two were housed in close proximity.
On May 6, he contacted Edwards at the Forks, Wash., correctional center and obtained a DNA swab. He submitted the amitriptyline tablet found in Devlin’s mattress to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory where a forensic scientist developed a DNA profile from saliva left on the tablet when it was “cheeked.”
When dispensing jail medications, nurses are required to watch inmates eat and swallow the drugs. However, inmates are sometimes able to hide the pill between their cheek and gum, known as “cheeking.”
The DNA profile from the tablet was entered into the Washington State Patrol Combined DNA Index System and a match was made between that DNA profile and Edwards.

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