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Man pleads not guilty in drug deaths

September 22, 2018

MOUNT VERNON — A 28-year-old Mount Vernon man has been accused of selling counterfeit pills that resulted in the deaths of two people.

Justin O’Brien Miller pleaded not guilty Thursday to causing the deaths of Garrett C. Arendse, 18, and Rebecca L. Doyle, 28, who died of fentanyl intoxication in April after reportedly buying drugs from Miller, court documents state.

Miller is charged with two counts of controlled substance homicide, creation, delivery or possession of a counterfeit substance and delivery of fentanyl with a school zone enhancement.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to documents, about an hour before midnight on March 31, Arendse contacted a friend asking for Percocet. The friend contacted Miller, who reportedly agreed to sell the pills to Arendse.

The friend then texted Miller’s cellphone number and a description of Miller’s Mount Vernon apartment to Arendse, according to documents.

The last text message exchanged by Arendse and his friend was about 12:15 a.m. April 1, according to documents. The friend told detectives he believed this is when Arendse arrived at Miller’s apartment.

Later that day, Arendse was pronounced dead after spending the night at a friend’s house in the Alger area, documents state.

Five days later, Doyle was found dead about 12:53 a.m. in a Clear Lake home, court documents state. Doyle’s fiancé called 911 after finding Doyle on the floor, blue and not breathing.

On April 3, three days before Doyle died, documents state the fiancé set up a drug deal between Miller and Doyle. A coworker of Doyle who was with her that day said Doyle drove to Miller’s apartment and was handed two white pills from a man believed to be Miller’s roommate.

Court documents state the coworker told detectives Doyle identified the pills as Xanax and “pure” fentanyl.

A text message to Doyle from her fiancé on April 4 read, “Ok Justin is expecting you, 4 perks 3 bars,” documents state. Law enforcement believe the fiancé commonly set up drug deals for Doyle.

On May 17, Miller was arrested and booked into the Skagit County Community Justice Center on multiple controlled substance violations. A search of his residence revealed numerous drugs and two shotguns, documents state.

In a May 18 interview with detectives, the fiancé said he’d been buying pills from Miller since about 2016 and that 90 percent of the Percocet pills he’d purchased in the last month were actually fentanyl. The fiancé also confirmed he set up drug deals between Doyle with Miller on April 3 and April 4.

According to documents, Miller was saved in the fiancé’s phone as “Dealer Justin,” and a search warrant executed on the phone revealed numerous calls and messages between Miller and the fiancé.

Miller remains in custody on $500,000 bail.

According to law enforcement, fentanyl is appearing frequently in Washington and British Columbia disguised as 30 mg Percocet and 30 mg Oxycodone. The fentanyl is usually obtained overseas and formed into counterfeit pills in clandestine labs. Overdoses can occur as there is no control of how much fentanyl is in each pill.

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