Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 7, 2017

U.S. Attorney vows action on heroin deaths

Darius Jermaine Blakemore of Chattanooga pleaded guilty on June 28 to conspiracy to distribute heroin resulting in death, distribution of heroin resulting in death, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute crack and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

He entered this guilty plea during the second day of his trial for the same offenses.

In his plea agreement on file with the U.S. District Court, Blakemore agreed to serve a prison sentence of 23 years. Federal law provides enhanced penalties for drug dealers who distribute controlled substances that lead to overdose deaths, including a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence.

The plea agreement, along with proof at trial, provided that in February 2016, Blakemore sold a gram of heroin to Jessica Rachels for $200 in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Chattanooga.

After Rachels arrived at the parking lot, Blakemore gave the heroin to one of his runners, Joshua Corbett, who delivered the heroin to Rachels. Rachels gave a portion of the heroin she received from Corbett to Logan Whiteaker, who drove her to the drug deal.

Whiteaker’s stepfather found him dead the next morning on the floor in the bathroom of his residence in Red Bank with a hypodermic needle clutched in his hand. A blue container with .64 grams of heroin inside was found on the bathroom counter.

Whiteaker graduated from Hamilton County Drug Court less than 24 hours prior to his death.

Like Blakemore, Rachels and Corbett both previously pleaded guilty to distribution of heroin resulting in death and are all awaiting sentencing.

U.S. Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr said heroin has proven to be a deadly poison that does not discriminate. “Its victims include every gender, race, age and economic background, and its debilitating effects are the same across all demographics.

“Statistics show that in 2016, heroin deaths surpassed gun homicides for the first time in more than 15 years. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee will not stand idle as the death toll continues to rise.

“We will use all available resources to hold drug dealers like Blakemore, who seek to profit from this epidemic, accountable for their actions,” Harr said.

John McGarry, resident agent in charge of the DEA Chattanooga Office, says “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and its task force partners from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Red Bank Police Department, the Chattanooga Police Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will investigate and pursue overdose deaths in southeast Tennessee to the fullest extent of the law.

“The prosecution of Darius Blakemore stands as an example of this coalition’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable elements of our community from the persistent threat of heroin.”

Law enforcement agencies participating in this joint investigation included the Drug Enforcement Administration, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Chattanooga Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Highway Patrol and Red Bank Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Porter and Scott Winne represented the United States.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee