Two months after her fiancé’s funeral, Kimberly Elkins pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Elkins, now 49, used fentanyl to deal with chronic pain. One day, she shared a fentanyl patch with her fiancé, Aaron Rost, and they overdosed. She woke up that night, but he didn’t. She was sentenced to four years in prison in Minnesota for his death, according to the New York Times.
“I struggle really hard with this…trying to find my responsibility in it,” says Elkins as she sits in prison for sharing the fentanyl with him.
The cases are more common among drug abusers, but are not limited to them. Friends and family members who provided or sent the drugs to someone who overdoses and dies as a result can be arrested and charged for felony murder.
Mark S. Rubin, the Washington County attorney who pursued the case against
Elkins, compared overdose prosecutions to a fatal collision—even if they did not intend for the other to die, they are still responsible.
“We feel that constitutes a crime of possibly murder in the third degree, but at least manslaughter in the second degree,” Rubin said.
On Rost’s Facebook page there was a debate by family and friends about whether Elkins is responsible for the death of her fiancé, the New York Times said. Rost’s sister backed the prosecution of Elkins death.
“I struggle really hard with this…”
“How the hell can you sit and blame her for it all, considering whether she gave it to him or not, he still had the choice,” one friend wrote, calling Rost’s sister “heartless.”
Rost’s sister responded, “I’m heartless? I had to plan a funeral for a 36-year-old man.”
According to The New York Times, the whole notion of overdose homicide prosecution is based on the 1986 cocaine-related death of Len Bias, a one-time college basketball player on the road to going pro, who collapsed two days after he was drafted into the NBA by the Boston Celtics.
Bias’ friend was charged in the overdose-homicide, but was later acquitted of any wrongdoing. States started passing laws, nicknamed “Len Bias laws,” which were designed to prosecute drug dealers when the sale of drugs resulted in death.
Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, New York, and Pennsylvania have passed “Len Bias” laws to go after drug dealers. From 2015 to 2017, in the 15 states where the New York Times gathered most of its data, there were more than 1,000 cases like Elkin’s that involved accidental deaths. The charges against friends, family, and drug users in these cases ranged from manslaughter to murder.