KENNEWICK — A 35-year-old accused drug dealer pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges that the heroin he gave to two Tri-Citians killed them.
Brian Haney Burt of Richland is set for trial June 27 in Benton County Superior Court on two counts of controlled substance homicide.
He remains in the Benton County jail on $250,000 bail.
Under the rarely used law, a person can be charged for unlawfully delivering a controlled substance that kills the recipient.
Deputy Prosecutor Art Bieker said Wednesday that given the serious nature of the case, a judge should be assigned permanently to handle it. He said he would prepare an order.
Burt has been appointed defense lawyer Gary Metro.
Though Burt is charged only in the deaths of Liam D. Hermsen and Shirley E. Sanders, prosecutors allege there was a third Benton County victim who is linked to Burt. However, the three-year statute of limitations has expired since Jason Brickey died in October 2007, prosecutors said.
Investigators also suspect Burt might be tied to a couple of other cases in Pasco and Franklin County.
Burt was picked up April 27 in Richland on arrest warrants, including for failing to appear in court.
Officers with Richland's Proactive Anti-Crime Team stopped a car after reportedly seeing Burt toss a cigarette out its passenger window, a misdemeanor violation.
The car, being driven by a person who didn't have a driver's license, was in the Walmart parking lot at the time, court documents said.
Burt was arrested and found in possession of prescription drugs, which were not in proper bottles per state law, documents said. Burt also reportedly did not have a prescription for the drugs.
While being questioned, he admitted that he was addicted to heroin and has sold the drug for years to support his habit, court documents said. He named three people that he had sold heroin to who died after taking the drug, documents said.
Hermsen, 29, of Richland, died in November 2009, and Sanders, 44, of Kennewick, in May 2010, both from a heroin overdose. Prosecutors said Hermsen's relatives identified Burt as his drug source, and that Burt was present when Sanders died.
Documents state that in Franklin County, Burt might be connected to the overdose deaths of Natasha Eubanks, 29, and Derek Scott Bradley, 21, both of Pasco.
Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant said detectives are reviewing all cases before he will decide if charges are warranted.