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Stuart man faces murder charge in distribution of fentanyl

Kevin Whitehouse accused of woman's death in January
Martin County Sheriff's Office and Jail
Posted at 10:24 PM, May 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-01 22:37:56-04

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — The Martin County Sheriff's Office said Monday it has made its first homicide arrest of a suspected drug dealer.

Kevin Whitehouse, 41, of Stuart, was arrested Friday in connection with the death of 28-year-old Samantha Nell from acute fentanyl poisoning in January.

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.

 Sheriff William Snyder says these cases are complex.

"At least we'll send a message if you sell this poison to somebody and they die, we'll be coming for you."

So far this year, there have been 18 fentanyl overdoses and seven deaths in Martin County.

At 1 a.m., Jan. 13, Nell was found unresponsive by her daughter in Stuart.

Deputies performed CPR and administered Narcan on the woman. But she was pronounced dead the next day at a local hospital.

Found next to her were a white powdery substance folded in notebook paper, and several whole and half yellow Xanax pills. The substance later tested positive for fentanyl.

Five days after Nell was found unresponsive, Whitehouse was located and arrested for driving on a suspended license and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In March, the Martin County Sheriff's Office said it is seeing the first signs of the drug xylazine in the area. Deputies said xylazine, or tranq, was found mixed with fentanyl after lab results from an arrest in 2022.

In 2017, a St. Lucie County woman was arrested on attempted murder charges connected to an overdose.

Rebecca Miggins, 32 at the time, is serving a 13-year prison sentence.

In December 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that two-thirds of the drug overdoses deaths, 107,735 in the 12-month period ending in July, were linked to fentanyl.

Five years ago, fentanyl and methamphetamine were about half as likely to be involved in a deadly overdose, according to the CDC.