Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

February 13, 2014

Men face drug charges in possible heroin overdose death

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Two Effingham County men face drug charges in connection with the possible overdose death of an Effingham woman earlier this month.

Jay C. Miller, 22, of Altamont has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, while Albert D. Church, 23, of Effingham, has been charged with delivery of a controlled substance. Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler said Thursday that both men are potentially connected to the Feb. 5 death of Jessica N. James, 29.

James was found unresponsive at her home on Feb. 4, but was not pronounced dead until the following day.

Church is accused of setting up the deal that led to what authorities believe was a heroin overdose that killed James, while Miller was found with heroin on him while police were serving a warrant in an unrelated case. Kibler said authorities believe Church and Miller were in contact several times on Feb. 4.

"We have a young lady who is dead and a guy who admitting hooking her up (with heroin)," Kibler said. "It's adding up a certain way, but it's not definitive."

Judge J. Marc Kelly set bond at $75,000 for Church, who was arrested Wednesday, during a brief appearance in Effingham County Circuit Court Thursday. Church, who said he worked at a local printing company until last week, said he could not afford a private attorney. Kelly appointed Conflict Public Defender Richard Runde to represent Church. The defendant's first appearance with counsel is set for 10 a.m. Feb. 19.

Miller was arrested Monday on an unrelated warrant. He remains in jail in lieu of $50,000 bond. His first appearance with Public Defender Scott Schmidt is set for 10 a.m. Feb. 19.

As it stands now, Church faces the more serious charge of the two. He could receive up to seven years in prison if convicted, while Miller could only receive up to three years in prison on his current charge.

Kibler said after Church's hearing that additional charges could be filed at some point. But he noted that drug-induced homicide charges aren't a given in this case.

"Drug-induced homicide is very tough to prove," he said. The prosecutor noted, however, that Church admitted to police that he set up James with an as-yet unnamed dealer who could supply her with heroin. And, he said, Miller and Church had communicated by phone on several occasions that fateful Tuesday.

Kibler stressed that James' death has not been officially ruled an overdose.

"We don't have a conclusive cause of death, but overdose is thought to be a possibility," he said.

Effingham County Coroner Duane Guffey said Thursday that toxicology tests on James may not be available until late March or early April.