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'People should pay': Prosecutors begin charging drug dealers with murder

Posted July 13

— Luana Gibbs referred to her son as the salt of the earth. But in an instant, everything changed.

She and her husband had received a frantic phone call from their daughter.

"She said, 'They're dead,' and we were just screaming," she said.

Cameron Gibbs had stopped by to check on her brother, 23-year-old Ryan Gibbs, and his girlfriend, 16-year-old Sarah Reams.

Sarah Reams and Ryan Gibbs

"When I touched Sarah, she was cold," Cameron Gibbs said through sobs. "I called 911, and I said, 'I think that my brother is dead.'"

Reams' sister, Jessica Gibbs, rushed to the scene and called her mom.

"She said, 'She's gone, Mom. She's gone,' and I just couldn't believe it," Reams' mother Judy Cox said.

"It still doesn't feel real," Jessica Gibbs said. "It doesn't feel like it hit us yet."

Investigators said the couple believed they were buying cocaine. Instead, they were sold heroin containing a large amount of a deadly synthetic opiate called fentanyl.

Hyde County District Attorney Seth Edwards wants to stop this deadly epidemic.

"They are dying from it," he said. "What really scares me today is how potent these drugs are, these synthetic opiates."

According to the state medical examiner, 479 people died in North Carolina in 2016 from overdoses related to fentanyl – nearly twice the number from 2015.

Prosecutors say that people who give or sell the drug to others are murderers.

"The general public, I'm confident, is clueless that this is happening," Edwards said.

For the first time in his career, Edwards has charged two people with murder in connection to a drug-overdose case. Alfornia Anderson, 32, and Tiffaney Webber, 25, are charged in connection with the deaths of Gibbs and Reams.

Edwards said the couple did not know what they were getting, and it cost them their lives.

"I was extremely angry," Luana Gibbs, Ryan's mother, said. "I was angry. I was even angry at Ryan. I hate that I was, but I was like why, why, why?"

The two families were devastated, and they remain convinced that prosecuting drug dealers may help prevent more deaths.

"Whoever is responsible for this, they need to be held accountable for it," Luana Gibbs said. "It is extremely important, at the top of my list of things to happen. People should pay."

"It put a hole in my heart that I don't know if I will ever get over," said Cox.

Anderson and Webber are due back in court Aug. 2 on the murder charges.

In a separate case, Dare County District Attorney Andrew Womble charged a 40-year-old Manteo man with second-degree murder after a woman was found dead of an overdose in her Dare County home.


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  • Linda Tally Jul 15, 2:43 p.m.
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    I had the same thought, and found it more than a "little" creepy. I was in hopes that the reporting was incorrect on that assertion. I feel for the guy's family - didn't find a reference to any family of the girl. Doing drugs shows a remarkable lack of good sense on both his and her part but that doesn't mean they weren't loved.

    As for murder ... for sure at least negligent homicide charges would be in order. Pinpointing who provide illegal or non-prescribed drugs can be difficult, but when it is done the same responsibility that bartenders carry would seem to apply.

  • Jeff Freuler Jul 14, 5:11 p.m.
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    I totally disagree with this. There comes a point when people have to accept the fact that these people made a decision to do it and it's their fault for buying then using.

    Not that I agree with selling drugs just saying as a society there comes a time and point for individual responsibility.

  • Tonya Willett Jul 14, 3:16 p.m.
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    And a little off point but isn't it a wee bit creepy that everyone seems to think it's ok that a 23 year old grown man had a 16 year old girlfriend he was doing drugs with??

  • Tonya Willett Jul 14, 3:15 p.m.
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    They actually can, yes.

  • Tonya Willett Jul 14, 3:14 p.m.
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    I agree as well. People know the risks of ingesting street drugs.

  • Tonya Willett Jul 14, 3:14 p.m.
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    The difference is intent and legality. If you knowingly give someone your prescription drug and they did, you absolutely can be charged with murder. Also, capital murder states that if someone dies while a felony is being committed then all parties participating in the felony are guilty of murder. Drug dealing is a felony. Seems they could get them this way as well.

  • Jim Frei Jul 14, 11:27 a.m.
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    Slippery slope...should the guy that sold a .45 cartridge be charged with murder if the gun is used to kill someone?

  • Dana Marin Jul 14, 10:59 a.m.
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    When are they going to start prosecuting physicians for continuously prescribing and refilling opioids? Conventional rules of medicine dictate that if a person is in need of opioid pain management for more than 14 days, the plan of care needs to be reassessed. Physicians regularly prescribe enormous amounts of opioids for minor injuries and approve refills without follow-up visits. I was offered Percocet to ease the pain of my sore throat. I was appalled.

    As a democrat and a health care professional, I can say that I am sick of hearing that local and state governments need to fund "The Fight Against Opioid Addiction". How about re-building the mental health care system so potential opioid addicts get the proper help they need before they spiral out of control and turn to opioids to "turn the pain off". I promise you this... No one is crushing and snorting handfuls of oxycodone to alleviate their knee pain.

  • Brenda Love Jul 14, 10:49 a.m.
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    I can see how a murder charge would be appropriate if the couple were lied to about what they were getting. But an ordinary drug transaction....I don't see how they can make murder charges stick.

  • Ben Hill Jul 14, 9:17 a.m.
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    Not true. McKesson Corporation (a drug wholesaler) was fined $159 million this year for not reporting suspicious painkiller orders. A number of other opioid manufacturers have come under FDA scrutiny and have been sues by some states.

    Doctors have been arrested as well (Dr. Willem Ouw for one) for overprescribing painkillers or for not conducting proper medical exams prior to prescribing them.

    Doctors and big pharma are not immune. Try searching the news instead of firing off incorrect conspiracy theories.