Muskingum County Prosecutor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Drug dealer gets maximum sentence for causing overdose death
A Nashport man received a prison sentence Wednesday morning for contributing to a Zanesville man’s fatal overdose this past summer.
Joshua O’Neil was sentenced to eight mandatory years after pleading guilty to one first-degree felony count of involuntary manslaughter, one second-degree felony count of corrupting another with drugs and one fourth and one fifth-degree felony count of trafficking drugs.
On Aug. 11, deputies from the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office were called to a home on National Road after a mother found her 30-year-old son, Dalton Cole, dead in his attic bedroom.
Cole’s death left his mother shattered, Assistant Prosecutor Molly Martin said in court.
As an active drug dealer with a lengthy criminal history, “who knows how many other lives and families have been affected by the defendant’s actions,” Asst. Prosecutor Martin said.
Prior to his death, Cole had recently begun living with his mother and her boyfriend while he tried to work on his addiction to drugs.
When interviewed by investigators, both Cole’s mother and her boyfriend recalled seeing Cole alive on the evening of Aug. 10.
After reviewing messages on Cole’s Facebook account, Detective Brady Hittle learned that Cole made drug arrangements with local dealer, Joshua O’Neil.
In their exchanges, Cole asked O’Neil using street terms if he had fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Arrangements were then made for O’Neil to meet Cole at his mother’s house around 5:30 that evening.
In another message, Cole informed O’Neil that he came up with $20, so O’Neil returned later that night.
O’Neil admitted to Det. Hittle that he sold Cole methamphetamine for $20, leaving O’Neil with a $5 profit on the sale that cost Cole his life.
Results of Cole’s autopsy showed he tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine and fentanyl.
O'Neil will serve a mandatory prison sentence of eight years with no chance of judicial release.
In the past year, the Muskingum County Prosecutor's Office has prosecuted six drug overdose death cases.
As Judge Mark Fleegle pointed out in court, O'Neil's was the second overdose case within a week to come before the Court.
"Prosecuting overdose cases is difficult. Many times law enforcement is not able to get the cooperation needed from witnesses or others that may have also overdosed from drugs provided by the same drug trafficker," Muskingum County Prosecutor Ron Welch said. "The more cooperation we receive increases the chances of prosecuting the drug trafficker and making our community safer for everyone."
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