A woman who allegedly smuggled heroin into the Benton County jail inside her body will not be charged after prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence in the case, according to reports from the sheriff's office.
The heroin was reportedly snorted multiple times by a 26-year-old female inmate, causing her to overdose. After an investigation, the sheriff's office asked prosecutors to charge a 24-year-old woman with bringing contraband into the jail.
Prosecutors declined to file charges because evidence was apparently thrown out, syringes found in a jail pod weren't tested for heroin, and no one took a blood sample from the inmate who overdosed, documents show.
The Herald is not naming the suspect because no charges were filed in the case. She denied bringing drugs into jail.
An inmate notified jail staff early July 15 that a woman in pod 205 had overdosed on heroin, documents said. Inmates in the pod found the woman unconscious, with blue-colored lips and her eyes rolled toward the back of her head.
Paramedics arrived and were able to revive her before she was taken to Trios Health in Kennewick. She was eventually released from the hospital.
Authorities found a small, clear baggy with "coarse brown powder" and some "sticky brown substance" in it during a search of the pod, documents said. The brown substance was most likely coffee used to conceal the drugs. The baggy did not test positive for heroin and a deputy threw it away.
The bag was thrown away because it "had no evidence value," a report said.
Jail staff also found two capped syringes hidden in a mop closet and two pills wrapped in tissue paper hidden in a feminine pad, documents said. The pills were later identified as pain and anxiety medication.
The drugs and syringes were found in common areas of the pod, which is shared by more than 10 women. Prosecutors decided the lack of evidence would make the case too difficult to prove in court.
But several inmates at the jail told investigators the suspect was responsible for sneaking the drugs in.
Investigators began interviewing women in the pod shortly after the incident and were able to interview the woman who overdosed.
The suspect had recently joined the pod after turning herself in for warrants, documents said. She and the inmate who overdosed were friends outside the jail.
The inmate who overdosed told authorities her friend had smuggled the heroin, pills and syringes into the jail, documents said. She said she snorted heroin at least twice, including the morning of the overdose, while her friend used a syringe.
"(The inmate) stated this is the second time she had overdosed on heroin with (the suspect)," documents said.
Interviews with other inmates in the pod backed up the woman's story and investigators' belief that the suspect was a so-called "drug mule."
One inmate told investigators she heard the suspect brought in a "big package with heroin and pills," documents said. She heard about the drugs through the inmate who overdosed.
Another inmate told investigators she heard what sounded like someone flicking a syringe early the morning of the overdose.
"I did hear rattling and like a click, click noise that I'm familiar with because I'm here on a syringe charge," the inmate wrote in a statement.
There is a possibility the suspect may have hidden something when she was searched, reports said.
The suspect was put into a cell while officers searched the pod and strip-searched the other women. No drugs were found.
The suspect was then strip-searched after the incident.
Authorities found no drugs on the woman and she was returned to her cell. She was released from the jail a short while later.
The inmate who overdosed was given a summons to appear in court. She had been in jail since March and was expected to be released around September.
-- Tyler Richardson: 509-582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson