Overdoses were finally on the decline in NC. The pandemic reignited the crisis.

Fatal overdoses in North Carolina had finally started to decline.

After steadily rising for years, deaths dropped by 7% in 2018, despite the growing prevalence of fentanyl, an opioid even more potent and deadly than heroine.

The state had aggressively invested in fighting the opioid crisis — it expanded access to evidence-based treatment, sent Narcan to at-risk areas and reduced medical dispensing of opioids.

Low overdose numbers in 2019 seemed to confirm the efforts were paying off.

People in the NC Department of Health and Human Services started believing it was possible to meet a goal they had set back in 2016: to cut the expected overdoses in 2024 by 20%.

“There was a lot of hope in those two years before the pandemic,” said Mary Beth Cox, a substance use epidemiologist DHHS.

Then COVID-19 hit.

“Who knows where we would have been if the pandemic hadn’t happened?” Cox said.


Loneliness and social isolation became more common. It became harder to send Narcan out into the community. Support groups and treatment centers transitioned online.

“You can do group therapy on the phone or in video, but it’s still not true connection,” said Ellen Stroud, who directs addiction and management operations for the state’s opioid response. “And that’s really a huge part of recovery.”

Disturbing data began emerging.

In the first year of the pandemic, fatal overdoses in the state shot up by 40%. In 2021, deaths increased by an additional 22%.

Continue reading “Overdoses were finally on the decline in NC. The pandemic reignited the crisis.”

They Were Go-To Dealers for College Students. Now They’re Headed to Prison.

A trial in federal court last week stemming from the overdose of a 23-year-old Raleigh man exposed the inner workings of a drug-dealing duo and their college-student clients.

The weekend of March 4, 2023, was a big one in the Triangle. 

Big for thousands of students and alums because longtime basketball rivals Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were facing off. Big for crowded restaurants and bars that had the Saturday night game in UNC’s Dean Dome on their wide-screen TVs.

And big for Cye Frasier and his girlfriend, Carlisa Allen, who expected to bring in $10,000 in drug sales that weekend from their primary customer base: college students.

That weekend was the first time Josh Zinner, a former UNC-Wilmington student from Raleigh, purchased directly from Frasier and Allen, according to testimony last week in federal court. His roommate, a former UNC-Chapel Hill student and Phi Gamma Delta member, referred him to Frasier.

Continue reading “They Were Go-To Dealers for College Students. Now They’re Headed to Prison.”

Father, son charged after 2-plus pounds of fentanyl found during Lee County traffic stop

SANFORD, N.C. (WNCN) — A father and son were arrested and charged with trafficking opioids after a traffic stop Thursday.

Lee County sheriff’s deputies made the traffic stop on Greenwood Road which is about 8 miles south of Sanford as part of an active drug investigation, the sheriff’s office said.

Deputies found about 2.2 pounds of fentanyl in the vehicle, according to the sheriff’s office.

Robert Bernard Fox Sr., 54, and his son, Robert Bernard Fox II, 23, were arrested and both charged with the following:

  • Trafficking Opioid by Transport,
  • Trafficking Opioid by Possession,
  • Possess with Intent to Sell and Deliver Schedule II Controlled Substance,
  • Maintaining a Vehicle for the Sale of Narcotics, and
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

The pair were brought before a Lee County Magistrate and were issued $250,000 secured bonds.

As a result of this traffic stop, narcotics agents, assisted by the Sanford Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, executed a search warrant in the 800 block of McKenzie Park Drive.

During the search warrant, agents found Shondell Rasheed Bethea, 25, inside the residence.

Bethea was wanted for failing to appear in court on charges of possessing with intent to sell and deliver methamphetamine, larceny of a motor vehicle, and two counts of breaking and entering.

Bethea was found to be in possession of two firearms, one of which was entered stolen by the Sanford Police Department, the sheriff’s office said.

Continue reading “Father, son charged after 2-plus pounds of fentanyl found during Lee County traffic stop”

After Raleigh man’s overdose, dealer convicted of selling fentanyl-laced drugs

A Durham woman charged with selling drugs containing fentanyl that resulted in the death of a 23-year-old Raleigh man was convicted in federal court Friday.

Carlisa Allen, 46, was convicted on multiple cocaine-related drug charges, including conspiring to distribute a substance containing fentanyl resulting in death and possessing a firearm to further a drug trafficking crime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina said in a news release.

Allen’s drug trafficking conspiracy resulted in the cocaine and fentanyl overdose death of Joshua Skip Zinner on March 10, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

She was convicted after a four-day trial and could face 25 years to life in prison when sentenced on Feb. 13 next year.

Continue reading “After Raleigh man’s overdose, dealer convicted of selling fentanyl-laced drugs”

Chapel Hill company working to develop vaccine to prevent fentanyl overdoses

After more than 4,000 people in North Carolina died last year from fentanyl, a Chapel Hill company has a plan to cut down on deadly overdoses.

A Chapel Hill company is developing an injectable drug to cut down on deadly overdoses after more than 4,000 people in North Carolina died last year from fentanyl.

Fentanyl is the number one killer of Americans ages 18 to 45, with opioids producing the worst drug crisis in the history of the United States.

Chapel Hill-based Cessation Therapeutics says its monoclonal antibody therapy, called CSX-1004, can block the dangerous effects of fentanyl.

“Fentanyl can get to the brain really quickly,” said Andy Barrett, chief scientific officer for Cessation Therapeutics. “And the brain is where it produces its pleasurable effects and its dangerous respiratory depression.”

Without any intervention, fentanyl can enter the bloodstream and travel easily to the brain – but the monoclonal antibody can bind to fentanyl in the blood and prevent it from crossing that blood brain barrier.

“It would block all of the effects of fentanyl for at least a month,” Barrett said.

Continue reading “Chapel Hill company working to develop vaccine to prevent fentanyl overdoses”

Barb Walsh, founder and executive director of the Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina

The fentanyl crisis has taken the lives of more than 13,000 North Carolinians in recent years and it’s currently killing eight North Carolinians a day. The rise in overdose deaths is driven by illegally manufactured fentanyl.

The group Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina recently joined NC Newsline for an extended conversation, in which founder Barb Walsh shared her family’s story, described the organization she leads, and shared some of the policy changes the group is seeking from state leaders.

Editor’s note: This is a rebroadcast of an interview NC Newsline originally aired August 20, 2023.

Listen to the interview and read the original article on the NCNewsline website.

UNC student’s family seeks justice for overdose death

The family of a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill freshman student who died after overdosing on fentanyl-laced cocaine on the campus of Duke University is seeking some justice for their daughter.

So far, no one has been charged in the death of Elizabeth Grace Burton, or Gracie as her family called her. She was 19 years old.

Court documents reveal Burton became “unsteady” and “wobbly on her feet” about an hour after meeting with a suspected drug dealer on March 9 outside a Duke student’s dorm. The former Duke student is Patrick Rowland, who pleaded guilty to a drug distribution charge.

An autopsy revealed Burton died two days after investigators said she met up with Rowland after a party and contacted him to buy cocaine.

Continue reading “UNC student’s family seeks justice for overdose death”

A UNC Student’s Overdose Death at Duke

A Carolina freshman was found unconscious in a Duke University dorm room in March and died two days later of a drug overdose. Neither university said anything publicly about her death until contacted by The Assembly.

by Charlotte Kramon and Michael Hewlett

Paramedics rushed into a residence hall on Duke University’s Kilgo quad at about 6:30 a.m. on March 9 and climbed to the third floor of the old stone building around the corner from Duke Chapel. In room 309, they found a pale, chilled body in a puffy jacket, on her back in a twin bed and glistening in a pool of sweat. 

The young woman was barely breathing, according to the 911 call log and an investigative report. A trash can sat next to the bed.

After almost an hour of treatment for cardiac arrest, an ambulance took Elizabeth Grace Burton, a business student from Charlotte and member of Zeta Tau Alpha at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to the Duke University Hospital. Two days later, she was pronounced dead. Burton was 19.

A state autopsy says she died of cardiac arrest from a toxic mix of cocaine and alcohol. A private autopsy also found fentanyl and GHB, a depressant that can give feelings of euphoria.

Until contacted by The Assembly, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill said nothing publicly about the death. Duke said it deferred to UNC because Burton was a student there, and UNC said it considers the family’s wishes when deciding to release a statement. 

No one has been charged with Burton’s death. But Burton’s companion that night, former Duke student Patrick Rowland, has pleaded guilty to using a cell phone to facilitate the distribution of cocaine and marijuana. Rowland, 22, is scheduled to appear in federal court on October 18 for a status hearing and will be sentenced in December.

Rowland could face a civil suit from Burton’s family. He is no longer at Duke. Duke officials won’t say whether he was expelled or left voluntarily. 

Continue reading “A UNC Student’s Overdose Death at Duke”

Woman charged with murder of Raleigh woman who died of overdose

Raleigh police said Christen Lee Neubert, 40, has been charged in connection with the drug overdose death of Maureen Walsh, 55.

A woman has been arrested and charged in connection with a fatal overdose from February.

Raleigh police said Christen Lee Neubert has been charged in connection with the drug overdose death of 55-year-old Maureen Walsh.

On Thursday, WRAL News obtained a toxicology report for Walsh that indicated methamphetamines and amphetamines were in her system when she died. Methamphetamines are considered a street drug, which is typically made in a lab illegally, whereas amphetamines are usually prescription medications like adderall and ritalin.

Neubert, 40, has been charged with murder. Neubert has pending charges for possessing methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia with two probation violations.

Toxicology results, obtained by WRAL News, showed Walsh had methamphetamines and amphetamines in her system when she died.

Homicide charges in drug overdose cases are rare in North Carolina and difficult to prosecute, according to attorney Daniel Meier.

“How much of your actions caused the death versus the actions of the person who died and who should be responsible for that?” Meier said.

There would also have to be enough evidence to prove one person was directly tied to someone’s death.

“If I sell to Bob who sells to Jane who sells to Sue who sells to Dave and Dave dies, how far up the chain can you go as to who did it,” Meier said.

North Carolina’s “death by distribution” law holds drug dealers liable for murder if their drugs cause someone’s death, even if they didn’t intend to kill anyone.

WRAL asked Raleigh Police if Neubert faced a death by distribution charge. It’s still unclear.

They said: “We charged her with homicide due to evidence that directly links her to contributing to her death.”

North Carolina has changed its “death by distribution” law to make it easier to charge drug dealers with murder in overdose cases, even if they didn’t sell the drugs for money. The new law takes effect in December, but it’s not clear if it will lead to more prosecutions.

“District attorneys ultimately have the say,” Meier said.

Neubert has pending charges for meth and drug paraphernalia, as well as two probation violations.

On Thursday, the judge informed Neubert about the charges against her and told her they would appoint a capital defender to represent her. Her next court date is set for Nov. 2 at 9 a.m.

Read the full article and watch the video on the WRAL News website.

Mother of NC State student who died inside her dorm shares her grief: ‘She gave most amazing hugs’

It has been eight months since Fara Eve Barnes has been without her daughter, Skye.

Skye Barnes died inside her dorm at Sullivan Hall on the campus of NC State University on February 11.

“She gave the most amazing hugs. Her hugs were not just a quick release,” said Barnes’ mother. “I miss the things that never happened that we get to have and are blessings in our lives.”

Barnes’ autopsy listed her cause of death as an atrial fibrillation to ibuprofen toxicity.

The ibuprofen overdose, according to Barnes’ mother, was due to the amount of work her computer science major daughter was taking in the spring semester.

“She had communicated how overwhelmed she was with the class load that all day every day was consumed to do homework for these 19 credits that she was guided into taking,” said Barnes. “There had not been an intention. This is the commonality in these stress casualties. You’re not finding this suicide note. Somebody hadn’t made a plan. They’re not thinking about ending their life.”

Barnes told Eyewitness News she could tell something was off with her daughter due to the course load and text messages they had exchanged.

Read the full article and watch the video on the ABC11 News website.