WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — On Friday, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) made three arrests in connection to a fatal drug overdose from earlier this year, the first arrests of this kind in the county. 

“It is monumental to Walker County, as it’s the first time in Walker County history that murder charges have been brought as a result of a drug overdose,” said WCSO Sheriff Nick Smith during a press conference on Monday.

On March 27, WCSO responded to a call of an unresponsive individual on Laura Drive, adjacent to Highway 195, in the Thach community. The deceased was reported as mid 20s / early 30s. 

Deputies who responded noticed that “something seemed off about the situation,” Smith said. 

“We believe … there was failure to basically render some aid to this individual and (there was) some assisted ingestion of the narcotics,” said WCSO Investigations Division Captain Darrell Mote.

A deputy supervisor and the WCSO investigative division began an investigation into the death.

Mote said that after “several” visits with District Attorney Bill Adair, the case was turned over to the Walker County Grand Jury.

Following a grand jury deliberation, three indictments were made for Ryan Dustin Clark, Tonya Raye Keene and Jamie Landon Rader, father of the deceased. Clark and Keene were neighbors.

On Friday, August 4, all three were arrested on murder, manslaughter and possession of controlled substance with intent to distribute. They are being held at the Walker County jail, each under a $250,000 bond.

Fentanyl and “other narcotics” were involved, according to Mote. 

“We’ve seen a large uptick in more dangerous drugs – carfentanil, Xylazine, fluorofentanyl,” Mote said of other cases. “It’s not that we’re seeing more (drugs); It’s that the drugs that we are seeing are more dangerous and more potent.” 

Mote said that he hopes these arrests help set a standard for the future. 

“We’re hopeful that this case sets a precedent and makes a deterrence,” he said. “But I can tell you that in the future if we have the opportunity to make cases like that, we’re going to pursue them aggressively.”