Thursday, December 18, 2014

Claridon Man Charged in Overdose Death of Russell King Sr.
August 15, 2014 by John Karlovec | No Comments

Supplier of heroin also indicted for involuntary manslaughter

A Claridon Township man authorities say provided heroin to Russell King Sr., the father of Chardon High School shooting victim Russell King Jr., will face charges in connection with his death.

A Claridon Township man authorities say provided heroin to Russell King Sr., the father of Chardon High School shooting victim Russell King Jr., will face charges in connection with his death.

Chad J. Riffett, 37, of 12078 Taylor Wells Road, was indicted Aug. 20 by a Geauga County grand jury on an involuntary manslaughter charge, a first-degree felony. He also is charged with second-degree felony corrupting another with drugs and trafficking in heroin, a fifth-degree felony.

On Monday, Riffett appeared for his preliminary hearing and arraignment before Geauga County Common Pleas Court Judge Forrest Burt. Geauga County Public Defender Robert Umholtz represented Riffett at the hearing, but Riffett intends to retain private counsel for future proceedings, Umholtz said.

Riffett entered a written plea of not guilty to all charges, two of which carry mandatory prison sentences and fines.

If convicted on all counts, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, potential fines up to $37,500 and a mandatory license suspension of six months to five years.

The case was assigned to Burt’s courtroom for future proceedings.

Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz recommended bond be set at $100,000 cash or surety. After conferring with Riffett, Umholtz asked the court for a “slightly more moderate bond” of $50,000 cash or surety.

“I’m ordering bond in the amount of $75,000 cash or surety,” Burt said, adding standard conditions in the event bond is posted.

After the hearing, Flaiz said using the involuntary manslaughter statute to go after drug dealers hasn’t been tried in Geauga County.

“It’s been successfully tried Cuyahoga County, but has not yet been tried in Geauga County until now,” he said.

Added Flaiz, “If you’re trafficking drugs in this county and somebody dies, a drug trafficking charge isn’t good enough. We’re going to hold you responsible for that death and drug dealers need to know that.”

The prosecutor said Riffett purchased the heroin from a supplier in the eastern suburbs of Cuyahoga County and brought it back to Geauga County and gave it to King Sr.

According to the three-count indictment, Riffett sold heroin to the 48-year-old King Sr. on Feb. 26, 2014. A family member found King Sr. dead the following morning shortly after 5 a.m. at his Aquilla Village home — two years to the day after his son was fatally shot on Feb. 27, 2012.

Geauga County Coroner Dr. Robert S. Coleman ruled the cause of King’s death was “acute intoxication by the combined effects of heroin and ethanol.”

“The heroin problem is growing. We’re doing our best job to fight it,” Flaiz said. “The sheriff and the police departments and my office, I think we’ve put a big dent in it, but this is another way for us to really go after these drug dealers.”

A source close to the ongoing investigation said the person who supplied the heroin to Riffett also is expected to be indicted in connection with King Sr.’s death.

Tuesday morning that indictment was filed. The grand jury returned a one-count indictment for first-degree involuntary manslaughter against Chas D. Johnson, 25, of 1321 E. 279th St., Euclid.

Johnson is the person who allegedly sold Riffett the heroin that eventually was given to King Sr., Flaiz said.

Riffett has a lengthy court record, according to common pleas and municipal court dockets. Although there are no felony convictions, Flaiz noted for the court Riffett currently is a diversion program in Cuyahoga County for a felony charge of having weapons under a disability.

Riffett also currently is serving a 60-day sentence in the Geauga County Safety Center after being convicted of disorderly conduct and physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. While he was out on bond, Riffett tested positive for drug use and thereafter pleaded guilty to the charges, Municipal Court Judge Terri Stupica said.

King Sr., who attended Chardon High School, was the father of 17-year-old King Jr., who was shot and killed Feb. 27, 2012, in the Chardon High School cafeteria along with two other students.

Daniel Parmertor and Demetrius Hewlin, both 16, also were shot and killed by then 17-year-old T.J. Lane.

Another student, Nick Walczak, was paralyzed in the shooting. Two more students, Joy Rickers and Nate Mueller, also were injured. Mueller’s ear was grazed by a bullet.

In March 2013, Lane was sentenced to three life sentences without parole.

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