Columbus residents accused in connection with recent heroin overdoses

Three local residents have been arrested, accused of selling or possessing heroin that caused as many as seven overdoses in one weekend earlier this month.

Bartholomew County’s Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team arrested:

Christopher P. Rees, 22, 328 Hope Ave., Columbus, on preliminary charges of dealing in heroin, possession of heroin, possession of marijuana and maintaining a common nuisance, held in the Bartholomew County Jail in lieu of $58,500 bond.

Andrew C. Ash, 21, 1502 N. Gladstone Ave., Columbus, on preliminary charges of possession of heroin, possession of paraphernalia and visiting a common nuisance, held in the Bartholomew County Jail in lieu of $17,500 bond.

Corey B. Hofelich, 22, 2401 Lafayette Ave., Columbus, on preliminary charges of possession of heroin, possession of a legend drug-injection device, possession of paraphernalia and visiting a common nuisance, held in the Bartholomew County Jail in lieu of $21,000 bond.

The Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team, assisted by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Columbus Police Department community policing unit, served a search warrant in the 300 block of Hope Avenue in Columbus on Tuesday night, where the three were arrested, police said.

When Columbus police and Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputies were called to nine overdose incidents the weekend of Sept. 17 to 18, seven involving heroin, investigators identified the Hope Avenue address as one of the main sources of tainted heroin, police said. No one died in the string of overdoses, which included one methamphetamine overdose and another related to LSD.

During the arrests, the narcotics enforcement team located about 5 grams of tainted heroin, as well confiscating an additional 9 grams during the investigation, police said. The heroin has been sent to a lab for analysis to determine what substances are in it, police said.

Mixing heroin with fentanyl, a powerful anesthetic used in cancer treatment, or elephant tranquilizer, has been mentioned by police in southern Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio as possible reasons for an epidemic of overdoses during the summer and early fall of this year.

Police said they are seeking enhanced charges for the three as the Hope Avenue address is located close to Foundation For Youth on Columbus’ east side.

An investigation is continuing into the heroin overdose cases and more arrests are expected, police said.

Sheriff Matt Myers announced that for the first time, a county sheriff’s deputy has been assigned as a DEA task force officer and is working directly with the DEA’s Indianapolis office to keep drugs out of Bartholomew County.

The Joint Narcotics Enforcement Task Force is a combined unit of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, the Columbus Police Department and the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s Office.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.