MARSHALL COUNTY, KY (KFVS) - Two men were arrested as part of an investigation into synthetic opioid distribution that apparently led to the death of one man and injury of another in Marshall Co., Kentucky.
On March 14, at approximately 7:39 a.m., the Calvert City Police Department was dispatched to a home on South Main Street in Calvert City in reference to two unresponsive men.
When they got there, and officer with the Calvert City Police Department found Karson May, 18, and Taylor May, 23, inside the home. Calvert City PD and other first responders administered first aid to both individuals. Karson was transported to an area hospital for treatment, while Taylor died at the scene.
While at the home, Calvert City PD collected what they believed to be items of illegal drugs, paraphernalia, and other evidence.
During a preliminary investigation, the Calvert City PD interviewed numerous people.
During the interviews it was alleged that both Karson and Taylor had been using the synthetic drug U-47700 (commonly known as U4 or 'Pink') the night before.
Police said U-47700 is an analgesic synthetic drug developed in the 1970s. It has never been tested on humans, but the effects produced are reported to be similar to an extremely potent opioid. U-47700 has 7.5 times the potency of Morphine in animal models.
According to law enforcement and open source reporting, multiple fatal overdoses across the United States have been linked to this synthetic opioid. The DEA temporarily scheduled U-47700 as a schedule I drug on September 7, 2016. Despite this measure, U-47700 is readily available online and is reportedly manufactured in China. U-47700 is generally sold in powder or tablet form.
Based on totality of the circumstances and the preliminary investigation, law enforcement officials suspect that both Karson and Taylor May had overdosed on illegal drugs.
Detectives with Marshall and McCracken County Sheriff's Offices assisted in the investigation. Over the course of the next several days. As part of the ensuing investigation detectives interviewed numerous individuals and executed several search warrants.
On March 21, detectives found Thomas "Jared" Hardin, 23, in McCracken County at his work. Hardin was later arrested by detectives with the Marshall County Sheriff Office and charged with one count of trafficking in a synthetic drug and manslaughter.
Hardin was lodged in the McCracken County Regional Jail. Hardin's charges stem from him providing Taylor May with U4 that is believed to have ultimately led to May's death.
The investigation continued into the early morning hours of March 22 as law enforcement agencies with the Marshall County Sheriff's Office, the McCracken County Sheriff's Office and the Calvert City Police Department executed a search warrant at the home of Jevan Sheppard, 25, located on Connector Street just outside of Draffenville in Marshall County.
During a search of the home, detectives seized what is believed to be quantities of drug U-47700 (in a white powder form) that was packaged for sale, other drugs, a digital scale, a drug ledger and numerous loaded firearms that were in close proximity to the drugs.
Sheppard was arrested and charged with one count of trafficking in a synthetic drug and one count of firearm enhanced trafficking in a synthetic drug. The first charge stems from allegations that Sheppard sold U4 to Hardin who then sold it to Mays. The second charge stems from the search warrant where firearms were apparently found in close proximity to quantities of U4 which were intended to be sold.
Detectives also seized $20,000 from Sheppard that is believed to be proceeds of illegal drug sales. The investigation is continuing and more charges and defendants are possible.
The Marshall County Sheriff's Office, McCracken County Sheriff's Department, and Calvert City Police Department feels it is extremely important to warn the public that "U4" and other synthetic drugs are very dangerous. U4 was originally a research drug that was not ever placed into trials. It is being manufactured in China and is not regulated. The same amount of U4 may have different potencies, depending on manufacturing location, etc. There have been numerous reported incidents of serious injury merely from the inhalation of, and physical contact with, U4.
Synthetic drugs are creating a unique challenge to law enforcement, the medical community, and the court system.
The medical community is searching for ways to combat the problem while also attempting to test for all the various compounds so that overdoses and symptoms can be properly treated.
This investigation has spanned several communities and will continue to be investigated as far as the departments can.