Local police lay manslaughter charges in relation to drug related death

Pembroke -- For the second time in two years, Inspector Stefan Neufeld, Detachment Commander of the Upper Ottawa Valley Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), has announced manslaughter charges were laid against a local resident and an Ottawa man following the death of 27-year-old Chance Turcott.

It is alleged the deceased purchased illegal drugs supplied by the two men and died of an overdose shortly thereafter.

Inspector Neufeld, who was the first detachment commander within the OPP’s Eastern Ontario Command to bring manslaughter charges related to a 2022 drug overdose, has a word of caution to anyone involved in the local illegal drug trade.

“The days of getting a free pass if you cause a death by supplying drugs are over in the Ottawa Valley,” he told the Leader during a telephone interview. “We broke ground by being the first to lay charges in a rural setting in this part of Ontario and this recent arrest shows the community it was not the last. The OPP is the only police force in Ontario to pursue manslaughter charges in these types of cases.

“It is my intent to see that anyone who supplies illegal drugs that result in a fatality will face the consequences of their actions. That includes manslaughter charges if there is evidence linking them to the death of another person.”

On April 4, the UOV OPP informed the public of the charges in a media release. Donald Wesley Sullivan, 35, of Pembroke, was arrested March 19, and Taylor Hein, 37, of Ottawa, was arrested April 3. Both have been charged with manslaughter and trafficking in a schedule I substance – fentanyl.

The charges are related to Mr. Turcott’s death last year. On July 23, OPP officers found him dead at a residence on Pembroke Street East.

Following an investigation under the direction of the OPP’s Criminal Investigation Branch and in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Coroner and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Services, the two were recently arrested.

Chance Turcott is not the individual by a similar who is the owner/operator of Turcotte Media, Turcotte Computers and Turcotte Concrete Finishing.

Drug Problem Demands Strong Response

Inspector Neufeld is hopeful the allegations against the two men hold up in court so the family and friends of Mr. Turcott can receive some form of closure in relation to his death.

“We are seeing the effects of the spread of illegal drugs not only in Pembroke, but throughout rural and urban communities across Eastern Ontario and throughout Canada,” he said. “I am glad we are slowly getting away from the attitude of just another junkie is dead with a needle in their arm and who cares about him. I can tell you that we as peace officers care and the families of the victims’ care and that is why we have seen a shift in attitude on our approach to dealing with this crisis.”

Insp. Neufeld admits the word “crisis” is sometimes tossed around for minor occurrences and people can become desensitized toward an issue. However, in this case, he wants residents in the OUV catchment area to understand there is an opioid crisis and law enforcement is just one tool in the toolbox to reduce the number of individuals using drugs, and hopefully reduce the number of fatalities.

“Just look around our community and you can see the evidence right in front of you,” he said. “It has been a terrible few weeks as we have had two fatalities in Pembroke and the number of near-deaths as a result of drug overdoses continues to rise.

“Illegal drugs don’t care who you are or where you live. Only a few miles away at the Pikwakanagan First Nation, they have declared a State of Emergency. They are overwhelmed with the number of drug-related cases in their small community.”

Precedent Setting Charge

Inspector Neufeld is hopeful the recent manslaughter allegations hold up against the two men for several reasons.

When Clement Mainville, 55, was formally charged with one count of manslaughter on February 4, 2022, it was the first of its kind in rural Eastern Ontario and Inspector Neufeld showed no hesitation when the decision was made to charge the accused with manslaughter.

“I am proud when our provincial force notified the detachments we had the authority to lay a charge of manslaughter if our investigation uncovered evidence that warranted such a charge. It has become more routine in urban centres to see these charges, but they are far and few between in our rural detachments. However, that is changing and we intend to use our resources to combat this problem.”

When Mr. Mainville was arrested in 2022, it was alleged he provided Jim Witters of Pembroke with an undisclosed number of illegal narcotics on April 28.

Unfortunately, the narcotics ingested by Mr. Witters contained a lethal amount of fentanyl and he collapsed and was found unresponsive at an Elizabeth Street residence in Pembroke. He was transferred by the Renfrew County Paramedic Service to the Pembroke Regional Hospital where he later died.

Police took Mr. Mainville into custody on May 4 and subsequently charged him with obstructing a peace officer and trafficking of a schedule I substance (fentanyl). At the time of his arrest, OPP said the cause of death was still under investigation and toxicology results were pending.

With the assistance of the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service, the cause of Mr. Witters’ death was directly linked to his ingestion of the fatal mixture. With the cause of death linked to illegal drugs allegedly supplied by Mr. Mainville, Inspector Neufeld authorized members from his detachment to take Mr. Mainville once again into custody.

Long Road To Prosecution

However, the case against Mr. Mainville was never completed because he died before the trial was completed. His death may have brought an end to that criminal matter, but what it did not reveal to the general public was the amount of time and resources required to warrant an arrest and charge.

“The time, manpower and resources needed to bring these drug dealers before the court is immense and that is why we take the manslaughter charges so seriously,” Inspector Neufeld said. “The discovery of the deceased is just the beginning of a very long process to an eventual charge. An investigation into one fatality can take up to a year or more to complete.

“The arrests of Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Heins in relation to Mr. Turcott’s July, 2023 death took over eight months to complete before we were confident the allegations would hold up in a court of law.”

He did not want to give away all investigative techniques but said the scope of the investigation included the confiscation of cell phones and retrieving hundreds, if not thousands of text messages and phone records to narrow down the number of leads.

From there, local officers investigated people and places not only in Pembroke, but travelled to communities leading to Ottawa. Searching for individuals who don’t want to be found in a city of over one million residents is not easy. This is especially true when one of the suspects resides in Ottawa and the majority of his contacts are not in the Ottawa Valley but in Ottawa and other larger urban areas.

“The good news is that an arrest was made and we will concentrate on those in custody and work with partners in our community to try and get these drugs and dealers off the street,” Inspector Neufeld said. “Nobody is born and as a child decides they want to be a junkie and risk their lives every day when they take drugs. Luckily, our society has become more aware that drugs can take over anyone’s life and many people now see the human being who has a problem and not some nameless person who will risk anything to find their next fix.”

Both Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Heins remain in custody at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre and have appeared in court for their respective bail hearings but have not been granted conditional release.

Next week, the Leader profiles the court system and how it is dealing with the increased frequency of drug-related arrests and the larger number of people taken into custody.

Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader