Chesco man arrested in county's first carfentanil death

A Phoenixville man has been arrested for supplying the carfentanil-spiked heroin that killed a 34-year-old Phoenixville man.

Damon Alfred Eskridge, 20, of Railroad Street, was charged Tuesday with drug dealing resulting in death, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years, said a Chester County district attorney’s spokesman.

Damon Alfred Eskridge

The death is the first Chester County fatality known to have been caused by carfentanil, a dangerous opioid developed as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large animals. It has already claimed victims in Philadelphia, Montgomery County, and elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

“Carfentanil is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that is often disguised as heroin or mixed with heroin,” said Gordon Eck, the county coroner. “Carfentanil is incredibly dangerous because it is 10,000 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.”

On July 4, Phoenixville police were dispatched to a Second Avenue home where they found the 34-year-old man unresponsive. A search of his bedroom turned up numerous empty heroin bags stamped “New Arrival,” “Chapo,” and “Wells Fargo.” The investigators also seized four “New Arrival” bags still containing heroin. A used hypodermic needle was found next to the man’s body.

Police also located the deceased’s cellphone, which contained information indicating he had bought drugs from “Kevin D.”

On July 5, police texted “Kevin D” and arranged to have him deliver 12 bags of heroin to the area of St. Mary’s and South Streets.

When the suspect approached the undercover police area, he was taken into custody. He possessed 12 bags of heroin stamped with “New Arrival” matching the bags in the victim’s home. He also had a cellphone and $274.74 in cash.

Eskridge was charged with possession with intent to deliver drugs, criminal use of a communication facility, dealing in proceeds of an unlawful activity, and related crimes. He was released on bail.

On Monday, the Chester County Coroner’s Office declared the overdose victim’s death was caused by acute carfentanil toxicity. Eskridge was taken back into custody on Tuesday and charged with drug dealing resulting in death.

He was remanded to Chester County Prison with bail set at $1,000.

“We will continue to work with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office in an effort to combat this new threat to our community and first responders,” said Phoenixville Police Chief Tom Sjostrom.