Young NC mom dies of heroin overdose, drug supplier charged with murder

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GREENVILLE, NC  – A Pitt County grand jury has indicted a Greenville man in connection with the overdose death of a young woman in July.

Ernest Lee Thompson Jr., 59, has been charged with one open count of murder in the death of 21-year-old Kaelyn Danielle Rich of Grimesland.

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Police were called out to the Baymont Inn and Suites on Memorial Drive on July 31, when a relative found Rich dead in a hotel room. Investigators determined she died from an apparent heroin overdose. Over the course of several weeks, detectives identified Thompson as Rich’s drug supplier.

On Sept. 12, Greenville Police Department detectives presented their findings to a grand jury, which subsequently returned a true bill of indictment against Thompson for the open count of murder.

Thursday afternoon, officers arrested Thompson at his Singletree Drive home in Greenville. He’s now charged and booked into the Pitt County Detention Center without a bond.

Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman released the following statement:

“Having seen a personal friend suffer through the loss of his daughter to a drug overdose, I am deeply affected by cases such as this. Drug addiction is a chronic disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, fatal drug overdoses have surpassed motor vehicle deaths as the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 25 and 64. The impacts of heroin reach far beyond the individual user. Case in point: Kaelyn Rich. Kaelyn was a loving daughter and devoted mother of two young boys. If Kaelyn did not have access to the drugs that took her life, she may still be here to see her children grow up. In North Carolina, when a person supplies drugs to another, they are directly responsible if that person dies as a result. This is an offense that the Greenville Police Department will pursue, whenever possible, to help stop the spread of this epidemic. We hope this arrest serves as a warning to anyone who views selling drugs as a victimless crime.”

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