Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the investigation was a joint effort between Alaska State Troopers patrol officers from Soldotna and the Soldotna section of the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit.
A Kenai man has been arrested for manslaughter for allegedly distributing a controlled substance to a Soldotna man who died unexpectedly last December.
The Alaska State Troopers began investigating the death of 37-year-old Soldotna resident Jeremy Vandever on Dec. 30, 2015, according to an online Alaska State Trooper dispatch. Richard Paul Morrison, 37, was arrested Thursday for manslaughter “for distributing the controlled substance to Vandever, which directly resulted in Vandever’s death,” troopers wrote in the dispatch.
Morrison was originally arrested and charged in January in relation to a Kenai-area methamphetamine investigation and bust by the Soldotna section of the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit, a branch of the Alaska State Troopers. Morrison already faces 15 charges ranging from misconduct involving a controlled substance to reckless endangerment and misconduct involving weapons, according to online court documents.
According to an affidavit written by Investigator Christopher Jaime in regard to the January drug charges and arrest, troopers were “approached by an individual who wanted to work as a confidential informant to purchase drugs.”
Sgt. Robert Hunter, who oversees the Soldotna section of the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit, said the investigation of Vandever’s death and the use of the confidential informant were done in tandem to tie Morrison to repetitive acts of selling drugs.
“Basically during the death investigation, we were able to develop an informant to work the drug aspect of the case,” Hunter said. “We were basically able to show that we had an individual that was selling controlled substances, and through the sales of controlled substances, resulted in the death of a person.”
The informant purchased about $1,350 worth of meth from Morrison over the course of a few weeks in January, which culminated in his arrest, according to the January affidavit. Four others from Kenai and Nikiski were also arrested and charged in January in relation to the same drug investigation.
Soldotna patrol officers from the Alaska State Troopers initiated the case, and it was a joint effort throughout once the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit was brought on, Hunter said.
The time it took from the January arrests to the new charge of manslaughter was due to following up with interviews and other aspects of the investigation, as well as waiting on toxicology and other reports, Hunter said.
Morrison was out on bail for the January drug and weapon charges, so officers located and arrested him Thursday, and he was jailed the same day, Hunter said. Manslaughter is a class A felony in the state of Alaska and carries a punishment of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
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