OVERDOSE LEADS TO MURDER CHARGE

By Greg Rickabaugh, Staff Writer
Columbia County Augusta Chronicle, GA
October 23, 2001

A Columbia County man was charged with murder Monday after he injected a powerful prescription drug into the arm of a friend who later died, authorities said.

James David Mitchell, 21, of Stage Coach Way, Martinez, was charged with murder and distribution of OxyContin in connection with the death of 23-year-old Brannen Weiss, said Investigator Paul Godden of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

Georgia law requires a murder charge when a person is killed during the commission of a felony, he said. The felony was distribution of OxyContin.

"The guy is very, very sorry," Investigator Godden said. "[But] any time you commit a felony and someone dies during the commission of that felony - whether you mean it to happen or not - that's felony murder."

Mr. Weiss was using drugs with a girlfriend and Mr. Mitchell at Rivercreek Apartments on Center West Parkway early Monday, police said. The victim said he wanted to experiment with injecting OxyContin rather than snorting it, Investigator Godden said.

"He had never done that before, but his friend had," he said. "The victim put the belt around his arm and the suspect injected it into his veins."

Mr. Weiss said he felt OK afterward but he later collapsed, police said. His face turned purple and his lips were blue.

Mr. Mitchell called 911 and attempted CPR, but Mr. Weiss was pronounced dead at University Hospital at 5:25 a.m., Investigator Godden said.

Mr. Weiss is from Columbia County, but had been living with his girlfriend for the past month, Investigator Godden said. The girlfriend will not be charged, he said.

Authorities say the trio were using a drug that is rapidly growing in popularity. OxyContin is a pain medication that is meant for use by chronic pain sufferers but is being heavily abused and sought by addicts, authorities said.

"Heroin is making a comeback, and OxyContin is the next thing they go to if they can't get heroin," Investigator Godden said.

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