Florida Keys woman charged with murder after another woman dies from fentanyl overdose
On the afternoon of Sept. 2, Monroe County sheriff’s deputies arrived at a house on Grassy Key in the Middle Florida Keys city of Marathon to respond to a call about a woman who overdosed.
Amanda Roberts’ boyfriend, Joshua Cochran, told deputies that she struggled with heroin addiction for several years. He told them that the last time he saw his 53-year-old partner conscious and breathing was when he left home for work around 3 p.m.
Around 4:30 p.m., Roberts’ boss called Cochran to say she never showed up at her job.
Cochran went home to find Roberts unresponsive. He gave her a dose of Narcan, the drug designed to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, called 911 and began CPR.
It was too late, according to a Monroe County detective’s report.
When deputies arrived, Cochran directed them to a room on the first floor where they found Roberts “leaning in the upright position between storage containers,” Detective Matthew Corey wrote.
She was pronounced dead around 6:30 p.m. The cause of death was an overdose of fentanyl and the anti-anxiety medication diazapam.
On Wednesday, the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office arrested the woman who detectives say sold Roberts the drugs, 23-year-old Alexis Joy Sather, on a second-degree murder charge.
Sather was already in county jail on an October fentanyl possession charge when detectives arrested her for Roberts’ death.
Sather’s attorney, Hal Schuhmacher, declined to comment on the case when reached Wednesday.
The threshold of a fatal overdose of fentanyl is 5 nanograms per milliliter, Corey wrote in his March 14 probable cause affidavit. The county Medical Examiner found 7 nanograms per milliliter in Roberts’ system when he conducted the Sept. 12 autopsy, according to Corey’s report.
“She basically blew herself away on this overdose,” Assistant Monroe County State Attorney Joseph Mansfield told the Miami Herald/FLKeysnews.com. “This fentanyl is just deadly.”
A bill signed into law by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2017 allows prosecutors to seek first-degree murder charges against those who sell lethal doses of the highly addictive and often deadly opioid.
But Mansfield said a grand jury must make that charge. For now, the State Attorney’s Office can only charge her with second-degree homicide using a charging document known as an information.
Mansfield said he plans to seek a first-degree murder charge against Sather and two others in separate fentanyl fatal overdoses when the next grand jury convenes in April.
“I hope this message is very clear; quit selling this poison in our community, it is ruining lives and killing people,” Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said in a statement. “If you sell these drugs and someone dies, we will pursue murder charges against you.”
‘Help around the house’
Police say Sather regularly sold drugs, including heroin, to Roberts and the transactions were made by phone using CashApp. In a 13-month period, Corey said that Roberts paid Sather $8,339 using the app. The transactions were categorized on Sather’s phone with subjects like “for groceries,” according to the report.
The $150 transaction for the fentanyl sold that morning was categorized as “help around the house.”
“It was common for Sather to drop off heroin to the decedent at her residence. Sather would either meet with the decedent in person or leave the heroin in the mailbox for the decedent could retrieve it, without Cochran detecting the transactions,” Corey wrote.
Around 6:30 p.m. Sept. 2, the day Roberts died, Sather received a 47-second phone call from a friend. Minutes later, she sent a text to Roberts’ phone saying, according to the report, “I got a call from someone saying there was an ambulance and a squad car in ur driveway. So, I just want to make sure ur ok.”
Over the next 24 hours, Sather called and texted Roberts’ phone several more times.
For the next four days, Sather began frantically conducting internet searches to try to get answers about what was going on, according to the report. She made more than 100 searches, the report reveals, typing in terms including: “Amanda Roberts,” “Amanda Blair Roberts obituary,” “Death Investigation Grassy Key FL,” “Trace materials” — and “Amanda Blair Roberts cause of death.”
Deputies arrested Sather on Sept. 21 on a parole violation after they say they found 2.9 grams of fentanyl on her when she was walking down U.S. 1 on Grassy Key. She told deputies at the time that she planned to sell the drugs to another woman.
Detectives sought to interview Sather in November and earlier this month in jail about the case, and each time she refused to speak with them. Days after the last attempt, detectives said they had established probable cause that Sather “delivered a lethal dose of fentanyl to Amanda Roberts resulting in her death,” Corey wrote.
“The decedent and Sather had established a narcotics buyer and seller relationship over the last 18 months,” Corey wrote. “Sather and the decedent lived within a mile of each other making the narcotics transactions very easy. On the day of the decedent’s death, she and Sather had made plans to buy and sell fentanyl before the decedent went to work.”