BATESVILLE, Ind. -- Authorities have charged a man with murder in his wife's overdose death, according to Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel. The accused heroin dealer is also facing a murder charge.
Nathaniel Walmsley and James Trimnell were arrested Tuesday night in the death of Rachel Walmsley, Hertel said. The arrests were the result of a three-month investigation.
Nathaniel Walmsley brought Rachel, his wife, to Margaret Mary Hospital July 30. She had overdosed after he injected her and himself with heroin in their Batesville home, police said in court records.
Police learned that Nathaniel had, sometime after shooting up, found Rachel unresponsive, according to court records. He had their teenage son help move her from the bathroom to the bed, and then later to the car to drive her to the hospital. But first, Walmsley cut up the needle and threw it out in the woods.
Walmsley later told police that he remembered thinking she was probably dead as she was lying on the bathroom floor.
Rachel Walmsley died by the time police arrived at the hospital.
Police obtained text messages between Nathaniel Walmsley and Trimnell, who they said sold him the heroin that led to the overdose and had sold Walmsley heroin six or seven times before. Trimnell admitted to selling the drugs, saying he'd gotten them in Cincinnati, according to police.
"The decision to file a felony murder did not come without much discussion with the city police chief and the detective and some research by the prosecutor's office," Hertel said.
If convicted, both men could face potential sentences of 45-65 years or life in prison.
Charging suspected drug dealers in fatal overdoses is a relatively new trend among courts in the Tri-State. Hertel said he believed this was the first such case of a murder charge for an overdose in Indiana.
"We want to send absolutely the strongest message that we possible can, and we are going to aggressively go after these drug dealers and do everything we can," Batesville Police Chief Stan Holt said. "We are not going to just turn a blind eye when these people are overdosing and not going after these drug dealers."
In Sept. 2015, a mother was indicted on a federal charge of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance resulting in death. Investigators say Kimberly Mullins smuggled a deadly combination of fentanyl and morphine into the Kenton County jail for her daughter, Jamie Green. Mullins was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
In Dec. 2015, a Warren County jury convicted its first suspected drug dealer of involuntary manslaughter after a fatal overdose.
In March 2016, the Hamilton County Heroin Task Force found a suspected drug dealer and charged him with involuntary manslaughter after a fentanyl overdose.
In April 2016, a Clermont County jury found a Goshen man guilty of involuntary manslaughter for selling drugs that led to a fatal overdose.
In July 2016, a Franklin County man was charged with murder after a series of fatal carfentanil-laced heroin overdoses. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than heroin.
In July of this year in Brown County, four people were charged with involuntary manslaughter and/or reckless homicide in an overdose death.