When everybody was looking for cause of heroin spike, suspected carfentanil dealers were out on bond

Posted at 12:01 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-23 12:19:21-04

CINCINNATI – A week after Cincinnati police arrested two suspected heroin dealers, after a grand jury indicted them, a judge released them on bond.

That happened just two weeks after the worst spike in heroin overdoses the Tri-State had ever seen. Local hospital emergency rooms handled 174 drug overdoses between Aug. 19 and Aug. 24 – overdoses that many suspected were due to carfentanil mixed with heroin.

Yet, when Phillip Watkins and Jeanetta Crawford were picked up on those heroin charges on Aug. 31, they were back on the street a week later.

If they had run, they might not be in custody facing state and federal charges. But they didn't run. Authorities said they went back to their same address and back to work selling drugs.

Feds arrested the couple on carfentanil charges a few days later.

This isn't the first time Watkins has faced drug trafficking charges. Court records show he was convicted of cocaine trafficking in 2011 and spent three years under intensive supervision.

He did a year in jail on a gun charge in 2008 and also has a conviction for marijuana possession.

Crawford had a drug-related charge dismissed several years ago. Aside from that, her criminal history shows traffic offenses.

Now the question is: Who will try them, the state or the feds?

They potentially face much longer sentences if convicted on federal charges. But they are also still facing state charges.

Typically, the state would drop its charges once federal charges are filed. But a spokesperson for the prosecutor's office says they're reviewing this state’s case.

If they determine the charges are different enough from the federal charges, they will go through with prosecution at the state-level as well.  

WCPO Web Editor Greg Noble contributed to this report.