Drug overdose: Five charged in January death

Five Franklin County residents charged in a January drug overdose death are behind bars this week, held without bail while awaiting preliminary hearings.

Police have charged Brandon Bowers, Dyllan Wright, Johnathon Smalls, Shane Gates, and Tiana Lescalleet with drug delivery resulting in the Jan. 28 overdose death of Trevor Witmer, 25, Greencastle.

All five also face several other drug delivery related charges. All but Gates are charged with being employees of a corrupt organization.

Affidavits filed in the case paint a picture of a drug delivery ring operating in the Greencastle-Waynesboro area and delivering everything from marijuana to capsules of pure fentanyl.

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Greencastle police responded to an overdose call at 9:37 that morning, according to court records. Chief John Phillipy and Officer Preston Strayer arrived on the scene two minutes behind emergency medical personnel from Rescue Hose Co. #1.

They found Witmer’s body in the bedroom of a second floor apartment on South Carlisle Street in Greencastle. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Police seized two cell phones from the bedroom, a partially full clear capsule containing a white powder and paraphernalia consistent with drug use. Police found half of another clear capsule in a trash can, according to court documents.

An autopsy showed Witmer died of fentanyl and 4ANPP toxicity. 4ANPP is a breakdown product of fentanyl.

READ: Warrant issued for shooting suspect

Investigation uncovers drug ring

The ensuing 7-month investigation into Witmer’s death by Greencastle and Waynesboro police, a Drug Task Force detective and Chief Deputy Coroner Paul Reed uncovered a local drug distribution ring, allegedly headed by Bowers, who at times directed its operation through Lescalleet.

The investigation began with interviews of Witmer’s family and close friends, then expanded as investigators began to develop the case.

They were told Witmer used drugs with Fischer Barnhart and often bought heroin from Smalls. A warrant was served on Barnhart, who had allegedly passed a non-controlled substance off as heroin to a confidential informant.

Barnhart became emotional when questioned about Witmer’s death. He started crying, telling investigators “everyone knows it was Dyllan (Wright).” He said Gates drove Witmer to a local convenience store where Witmer bought drugs from Wright the day before his death.

Barnhart told investigators he had bought drugs from both Wright and Smalls in the past.

When interviewed by investigators, Wright first denied being the source of the drugs that killed Witmer. Then, after leaving the police station he came back and asked to talk to investigators again. During that interview, he claimed he had delivered the drugs to Gates, who then delivered it to Witmer.

He told investigators he bought 10 fentanyl capsules from Brandon Bowers, then resold two capsules to Gates.

READ: Chambersburg police: One in custody, another at large

Developing the case

By late April investigators had enough evidence to bring Lescalleet in for questioning. She was an ex-girlfriend of Bowers and described working for him in return for drugs to feed her own addiction. She told investigators Bowers obtained drugs from a source in Baltimore. During their three-year relationship, Bowers made a Baltimore run about every other day, she told investigators. She continued to work for him after they broke up, according to an affidavit describing the interview.

Bowers was in Franklin County Jail by March on drug delivery charges not related to Witmer’s death, but it didn’t stop the flow of fentanyl from Baltimore to Franklin County, according to court records.

Instead, he transferred the illegal drug distribution business to Lescalleet, investigators claim, directing her through phone calls and letters. Investigators intercepted at least one of those phone calls and seized a letter when executing a search warrant.

Bowers allegedly laid out a plan in that letter for expanding their illegal drug business once he got out of jail.

Based on interviews with Lescalleet, Wright and Smalls, investigators estimate Bowers was making more than $100,000 in profit from his illegal activities.

As the case developed, investigators learned Bowers gave one handgun to Lescalleet and another to his 16-year-old daughter. Investigators retrieved the daughter’s handgun from her mother. They traced its serial number and found the gun had been stolen.

About the defendants

All five defendants have preliminary hearings Monday in Franklin County’s Magisterial District Central Court.

Brandon Bowers, 37, Waynesboro

five charged
Brandon Bowers
  • Drug Delivery Resulting In Death, first degree felony
  • Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, felony
  • Conspiracy – Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, felony
  • Corrupt Organizations – Employee, first degree felony
  • Possession Of Firearm Prohibited, second degree felony
  • Possession Of Firearm By Minor, third degree felony
  • Criminal Use Of Communication Facility, third degree felony

Tiana Lescalleet, 32, Waynesboro

Five charged
  • Drug Delivery Resulting In Death, first degree felont
  • Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, felony
  • Conspiracy – Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, felony
  • Corrupt Organizations – Employee, felony
  • Criminal Use Of Communication Facility, third degree felony

Johnathon Smalls, 26, Waynesboro

Five charged
Johnathon Smalls
  • Drug Delivery Resulting In Death, first degree felony
  • Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, felony
  • Conspiracy – Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, felony
  • Corrupt organization, Employee, first degree felony
  • Criminal Use Of Communication Facility, third degree felony

Dyllan Wright, 25, Waynesboro

Five arrested
  • Drug Delivery Resulting In Death, first degree felony
  • Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, felony
  • Conspiracy – Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, felony
  • Corrupt Organizations – Employee, first degree felony
  • Criminal Use Of Communication, third degree felony

Shane Gates, 22, Greencastle

Shane Gates
  • Drug Delivery Resulting In Death, first degree felony
  • Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, felony
  • Conspiracy – Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, felony
  • Criminal Use Of Communication Facility, felony
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