By Tyler Lake
The Ripley County prosecutor’s office is charging two men with felony murder for the July drug overdose death of a woman.
Indiana law allows a person to be charged with felony murder when a death occurs while that person is committing or attempting to commit a crime. The statue applies to drug dealing.
Prosecutor Ric Hertel says the charges stem from the July 30 overdose death of Rachel Walmsley.
“I honestly think it’s the first charge in the state of Indiana, where a murder charge has been filed based on an overdose death,” Hertel says.
According to Hertel, Walmsley’s husband Nathaniel bought the drugs that killed Rachel from James Trimnell. Hertel says Nathaniel received the drugs and injected them into Rachel’s arms.
Police arrested both men on felony murder charges Tuesday night. If convicted, Trimnell and Nathaniel could face 45 to 65 years in prison.
Hertel says he consulted the Indiana Attorney General’s office before deciding to pursue the felony murder charges. Attorney General Curtis Hill made the controversial decision to file felony murder charges against four young men when he served as Elkhart County prosecutor. In that case, the young men broke into a home and the homeowner shot and killed their fifth accomplice. Hill charged them with felony murder for his death, but the Indiana Supreme Court later threw those convictions out and ordered a lower court to re-sentence the men.
Hertel’s decision to file felony murder charges in the case comes the same day as Gov. Eric Holcomb highlighted the use of felony murder in drug dealing cases as one of his legislative priorities.
Hertel says many people across the state, including legislators and other prosecutors, will be watching to see how the case unfolds.