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Dealer 'knowingly sold lethal amounts' of fentanyl to Palm City woman, investigators say

Sean Lamont Bray of West Palm Beach faces charges in Palm City woman's death
Posted at 2:12 PM, Feb 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 18:24:17-05

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — A man who investigators said sold fentanyl to a woman who overdosed and died last May is now facing multiple charges in Martin County.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a written statement Wednesday that Sean Lamont Bray knowingly sold fentanyl and cocaine to a Palm City woman for more than six months.

"This drug dealer knowingly sold lethal amounts of fentanyl to a woman that ultimately resulted in her death," Moody said. "Every drug trafficker should know, in Florida, if you traffick fentanyl and kill someone, you will be held accountable."

WATCH BELOW: Martin County Sheriff's Office outlines case, arrest of suspected drug dealer

Martin County Sheriff's Office announces arrest of fentanyl dealer in Palm City woman's death

Detectives said Bray admitted his primary source of income was selling crack cocaine and fentanyl, making approximately $500 a day selling illicit drugs.

Investigators said the victim traveled from her home in Martin County to Bray's residence in West Palm Beach where the suspect sold her cocaine and fentanyl the day of the overdose. When they examined Bray's phone, the sheriff's office said that Bray contacted the woman for numerous drug sales.

Martin County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy John Budensiek said the suspect, who was arrested Tuesday, wasn't bashful about dealing the deadly narcotics to someone struggling with addiction.

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"[Bray said], 'Well, you know you have your job to do, I have my job to do. I'm sorry for her,'" Budensiek said reiterating the suspect's statements. "He said something to the effect of 'Yeah, I do feel bad for her. I liked her, and I didn't want her to use those drugs, but she wanted them, so I gave them to her.'"

Bray faces one count of manslaughter, three counts of sale of fentanyl and three counts of sale of cocaine, which are all second-degree felonies. He is also charged with two counts of unlawful use of a two-way communication device, which is a third-degree felony.

"(The victim) was desperately trying not to be an addict. She had been going to rehabs, but then checking herself out," Budensiek said Wednesday. "Unfortunately, these drug dealers continued to feed her drugs, so she kept relapsing."

This is the second suspect to be arrested in Martin County to face charges in connection with an overdose death. A Stuart man was arrested in May 2023 in the death of a 28-year-old woman from acute fentanyl poisoning.

A state law passed in 2017 allows law enforcement to pursue first-degree murder charges against anyone who sells fentanyl to someone who dies from it.

In this case, Budensiek said Bray was charged with manslaughter, not first-degree murder, because of legalities.

fentanyl bust in Martin County 12272023.png

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“Because of the way the statute is written, if there's multiple drug toxicities, and you can't prove that one drug was the cause of death, you can't charge first-degree murder," Budensiek said.

Since then, Budensiek said the law has strengthened, allowing deputies to more easily charge those they say dealt a fatal dose of drugs with first-degree murder.

"It will help," Budensiek said.

Getting a conviction, however, may not be as easy, according to former FBI agent Stuart Kaplan.

"I think these cases are going to be very difficult to prove," Kaplan, who is now a criminal defense attorney, said. "I think, from just a juror's perspective, there is a certain amount of accountability or responsibility that is going to be thrust or held to the person that purchased the drugs or ingested the drugs."

WPTV reporter Kate Hussey researched similar cases, and so far only found one since the law passed in 2017 that led to a conviction.

"This is uncharted waters for prosecutors and defense attorneys, and this will be a battle of the experts," Kaplan said.

FBI agent Stuart Kaplan speaks with WPTV reporter Kate Hussey about the difficulty prosecuting drug dealers in victim's deaths.
FBI agent Stuart Kaplan speaks with WPTV reporter Kate Hussey about the difficulty prosecuting drug dealers in victim's deaths.

It's an issue that's personal for Liz Southers. She lost her brother, Greg, to a fatal overdose in Martin County in 2018.

"It's still hard, obviously," Southers said while getting choked up. "We talked constantly. We were really close. He was one of my best friends."

Southers recalled the day she was told her brother overdosed on Carfentanil.

"I just, I lost it. I was in the car with my son, and I let out one of those guttural shrieks and went into fight or flight," Southers said.

Southers said finding peace and closure through justice isn't as important for her as it is for her mother, who lost her only son.

Liz Southers shares the pain of losing her brother to an overdose.
Liz Southers shares the pain of losing her brother to an overdose.

"It helps my mom, I know those laws help her, and make her feel a little better, she's very invested in justice not just for Greg but for all the parents who have gone through this," Southers said.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder has been vocal about the impacts of fentanyl and other drugs on the Treasure Coast, recently traveling to the U.S. southern border.

"The fentanyl crisis continues to plague our county much like it has throughout our country," Snyder said in a statement. "As this crisis rages, so does our relentless efforts to stop it. This latest arrest is proof that we will not rest until every last bit of this deadly drug and those who push it, are off our streets."

In a separate case, three men from New York were arrested in December after Martin County deputies said they were caught with 10,000 fentanyl pills with a street value of $300,000, which was deemed as the county's "largest fentanyl load" in its history.