Putnam woman charged with murder in heroin overdose

Joney Farley

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Department has arrested a woman on a murder charge over a heroin overdose — something the sheriff said he can’t remember happening before.

Authorities arrested Joney Farley, 35, of Hurricane, on the charge of first-degree murder Thursday.

Farley told investigators that, on March 15, she combined heroin with water and injected the mixture into Jeffrey Burdette as they sat in her home on Poplar Fork Road, according to a criminal complaint filed in Putnam County Magistrate Court.

She said Burdette asked for another dose of the heroin, the complaint states, and she again injected him with the mixture. That’s when Burdette reportedly lost consciousness and stopped breathing.

Farley left him at CAMC Teays Valley Hospital, where he remained until he died on March 19, according to the complaint.

Burdette’s mother later told a detective that her son borrowed her Hyundai Sonata on the day of his overdose. Farley told investigators Burdette drove her and two other people to Huntington, where they bought heroin before the incident, according to the complaint. Farley said she later used the car to drive Burdette to the hospital.

Putnam Sheriff Steve Deweese said Farley’s arrest is the first time he can remember someone being charged with murder in relation to a drug overdose in the county.

Authorities can charge someone with murder for simply providing the heroin that leads to a lethal overdose, the sheriff said. It’s uncommon for people to admit they injected someone with the drug, he added.

“If we can prove that the heroin was given to a person, and they later die, we can charge them with murder, but trying to prove that is a different thing,” he said.

Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia could not be reached for comment. Farley remained at the Western Regional Jail without bail Friday afternoon.

Last year, Kanawha County authorities charged a man with murder for giving someone a fatal overdose of heroin, but they allowed him to plead guilty to lesser charges. Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey sentenced Steven Coleman to one year in jail for the involuntary manslaughter of Melody Oxley, and between one and three years in prison for the attempted delivery of a controlled substance.

Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney Charles Miller had said his office wanted to send a message to drug dealers. Prosecutors agreed to let Coleman plead guilty to the lesser charges because a witness in the case died before the trial, Kanawha Assistant Prosecutor Don Morris said on the day of Coleman’s hearing.

Coleman’s lawyer, Rico Moore, argued that charging Coleman with murder would prevent drug users from calling 911 after an overdose.

At his sentencing hearing, the judge denied Coleman’s request to receive time in a drug rehabilitation center, rather than jail.

“I’m an addict. My mother was an addict, my father is an addict, my brother and uncle are addicts,” Coleman said at the time.

Reach Giuseppe Sabella at giuseppe.sabella@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5189 or follow @Gsabella on Twitter.

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