Cuyahoga County prosecutors going after heroin dealers with manslaughter charges

CLEVELAND - Heroin overdose deaths since 2007 have reached epic levels, up nearly 500 percent as of last year, which is why Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty is hitting heroin dealers hard.

“These dealers are selling drugs they know can and have killed,” McGinty said.

In court Thursday, Ralph, David and Angel Torres were all charged with drug trafficking and manslaughter.

The prosecutor’s office said they are responsible for the death of Christopher Vance, who died of a heroin mixed with fentanyl. Fighting back against the tide of overdoses, the prosecutor’s office is looking to charge dealers with a homicide if the sale of their drug leads to death.

“For the first time in memory, a drug dealer in Cuyahoga County has been held responsible for the death of his customer,” said assistant prosecutor Mahmoud Awadallah. The assistant prosecutor is speaking about Michael Karkoska’s plea to involuntary manslaughter for the killing of Lanny David Gullion, III.

The 19-year-old died on Oct. 10 when he was found outside of a Circle K near West 140th. Karkoska is the first drug dealer to be prosecuted for the death of someone he sold to in Cuyahoga County.

Prosecutors say they are hoping this sends a message to potential dealers that they are not messing around. “We are hoping that it is a deterrent. We are hoping that it makes people think twice about selling drugs or helping others get drugs.”

The Torres brothers are due in court next week.

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