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An Ontario man has been convicted of manslaughter for supplying a 17-year-old girl with the fentanyl that caused her overdose death.

At trial, the court heard how teenager Rachel Cook from Simcoe, Ont., texted and met Derrick Adams in the days before she was found ‘unconscious and unconscious on her bed’ by a family friend on August 27 2021, according to a decision by Ontario Court Judge Aubrey Danielle Hilliard issued earlier this month.

Cell phone extracts from Cook’s phone “demonstrate a tendency to seek out and purchase small amounts of drugs in the days leading up to his death”, the judge concluded, explaining that the “only reasonable inference” is that Cook met with Adams to get the fentanyl that killed her.

The text messages also revealed that Adams knew that Cook intended to consume the fentanyl he had provided him with and was aware the drug could be deadly – ​​evidenced by his claim in the text messages that he had been sent home with the anti-overdose medication. Naloxone.

“I’m taking a puff now,” Cook texted Adams in an exchange the day he died.

“Please message me after too thank you,” was his response, per Hilliard’s decision.

After being found unconscious by a family friend, Cook was taken to Norfolk General Hospital. There his heart was restarted but his brain activity never resumed. She was later taken off life support, her cause of death being an overdose of fentanyl.

In recent years, police and prosecutors everywhere have increasingly sought manslaughter convictions against the people selling the drugs that are driving Ontario’s opioid crisis, but with mixed results.

Earlier this year, investigators told The Star that the complexity of these cases makes it difficult to prosecute drug traffickers for overdose deaths.

The justice system is increasingly recognizing that fentanyl and related opioids are “so capable of causing death that by trafficking this drug you are directly tied to death,” said Const. of the York Regional Police. Laura Nicolle confided to the Star.

Hilliard also convicted Adams of trafficking fentanyl and criminal negligence causing death.

By providing Cook with the fentanyl, Adams’ conduct “constituted a marked and substantial departure from that of a reasonable person,” Hilliard wrote,

“A reasonable person would have foreseen the risks of providing fentanyl,” the judge ruled.

Criminal defense attorney Ehsan Ghebrai, who is unrelated to the lawsuit but has represented clients in similar cases, said Hilliard’s decision “is obviously driven by the scourge of opioids and the destruction that they leave in their wake in our communities”.

“While there may be a subset of money-driven traffickers who may consider and refrain from participating in opioid trafficking as a result of these types of court rulings, I believe the large majority of those involved in the sale and use of these opioids will not be discouraged,” he added. “They are too immersed in the throes of their own addictions.”

Jason Miller is a Toronto Star reporter who covers crime and justice in Peel Region. Contact him by email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic

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Man convicted of manslaughter over teenage fentanyl overdose

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