For the first time in Rhode Island state history, a man has been convicted of murder for selling drugs that led to a fatal overdose. Aaron Andrade was convicted of second degree murder in an overdose death where he was found to have supplied the drugs. Andrade admitted to selling almost pure Fentanyl to Kristen Coutu who died almost instantly when she used the extremely powerful drug. The overdose occurred back in 2014, after Coutu had just been released from a treatment facility in Texas. She told her mother she was going out to dinner but instead, she called Andrade, who was apparently her long-time drug dealer, to buy heroin.
The drug sold to her by Andrade was actually mostly Fentanyl, which is up to 100 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is produced mostly in China, and distributed to the US and other countries where heroin use is prominent. The Fentanyl is much cheaper to produce that heroin, and so dealers mix Fentanyl with heroin, or even sell pure Fentanyl as heroin. This was the situation with Coutu, and she died in her car only moments after Andrade sold her the drug. Coutu’s mother testified in court and gave an emotional impact statement. Andrade was sentenced to 40 years and in a plea will serve 20 years of the 40. This is not only the first time in Rhode Island that someone has been convicted of murder for this type of offense, but it is also one of only a very few times across the United States that such a conviction has been obtained. Prosecutors and judges appear to be moving towards this type of harsher penalty for dealers, even though such enforcement-focused tactics have proven over the last 40 years to make the drug problem worse, not better.