Family Speaks Out About Dangers of Fentanyl Following Murder Charge

Every time there is a fatal overdose, the agency works with law enforcement to find the source who gave the victim the drug. For one family in Oklahoma, this effort is bringing them closer to closure.

Tuesday, February 6th 2024, 5:52 pm



Fentanyl claimed more than 600 lives in Oklahoma last year. It’s a growing trend that the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics wants to combat by targeting traffickers and dealers.

Every time there is a fatal overdose, the agency works with law enforcement to find the source who gave the victim the drug. For one family in Oklahoma, this effort is bringing them closer to closure.

“She didn't make it to her full potential,” said Melynda Bryant, Mandy Hibbitt’s mother. “I wish she would have been able to realize how much potential she had.”

A year after her death, the family of Mandy Hibbitt still hurts over the loss.

“It's like it hits you all over again, like you got the call again, you have to relive it,” said Sydney Hibbitt, Mandy Hibbitt’s sister.

The 30-year-old mother lost her life to a fentanyl overdose in Feb. of 2023.

“I don't think we'll ever completely get over the loss of her and I don't want to but at the same time I want to honor her,” Bryant said.

To do that, the family is telling Mandy’s story of addiction and the dangers of getting fentanyl on the streets.

“We want to be that voice against fentanyl but it's hard because we're the example,” said Hibbitt. “It breaks a family's heart.” 

The family says Mandy struggled with addiction due to physical pain from degenerative discs in her back and a head injury.

“When you get it from a dealer you don't know what's in it and how much is in it,” said Bryant.

This is why the OBN is working to get the drug off the streets by targeting those who sell or give it to victims.

“Tragically, that's the case in many of the investigations we work. When we try to trace the source of the drug where it came from, it's not some strangers and a purchase in a dark alley, it was given to them by a boyfriend, a girlfriend, somebody that they go to high school with, in many cases,” said Mark Woodward with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

According to an OBN investigation, it was Donald Lawrence Dutcher who sold fentanyl pills to Mandy resulting in her death. Dutcher is currently serving a 10-year sentence for trafficking illegal drugs. He is now charged with first degree murder in Mandy’s death. Court documents reveal on February 4, 2023, Mandy and another man bought approximately 10 counterfeit oxycodone tablets containing fentanyl from Dutcher. The affidavit shows Mandy died after taking the tablets purchased by Dutcher.

“What's happening is the cartels started buying mass quantities of black-market fentanyl from China and then they buy pill presses, and they make their own stamps that will look side by side just like a stamped U.S. oxycodone pill or a Xanax bar but it's 100 percent fentanyl,” said Woodward.

Woodward said through their efforts, they are seeing more and more first-degree murder charges being filed in these types of overdose cases.

“I think if it just gets one person to rethink, it's worth it,” he said.

For Mandy’s family, they hope by speaking out, they can save others.

“It doesn't bring closure at all, but it is a step for the future, for others,” Bryant said.

And justice for Mandy.

“I just hope that we can be a voice for it as this is what can happen to your family,” Hibbitt said.

There are several resources for families of those struggling with addiction or dealing with the death of a loved one.

Griefshare.org

https://hopeisalive.net/finding-hope/

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What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an opioid that can be prescribed to patients battling severe pain. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it is 100 times stronger than morphine.

Fentanyl is a major contributor to fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the US, according to the CDC.

Fentanyl is produced and prescribed as a medicine, but it is also made illegally and laced into other illegal drugs, often without the user knowing it’s there. 

“It is often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency,” the CDC says. “which makes drugs cheaper, more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous.”

Fentanyl Overdoses On The Rise

Fentanyl overdoses have been steadily on the rise since 2017, according to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. In 2017, the BNDDC reports 54 fentanyl overdoses, 39 for 2018, 54 for 2019, 137 for 2020, 299 for 2021 and 474 for 2022.

In comparison, overdoses by any drug have gone up slightly, but not as steeply as overdoses from fentanyl.

To combat overdoses, the CDC recommends using test strips to detect fentanyl to avoid an overdose.

Drug OverdosesImage Provided By: Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control

Where Does Fentanyl Come From?

Illegal fentanyl is primarily manufactured in China and Mexico, according to the DEA. Fentanyl from China is typically sent through international main and consignment operations, according to the DEA. Fentanyl from Mexico is typically smuggled across the border into California and Arizona, the DEA states.

It is often suggested that fentanyl comes over the Mexico border with illegal immigrants, it is more often smuggled by US citizens, according to the Department of Justice

“Drug trafficking organizations will use anyone they can to help them with their dangerous and illegal activities, including regular border crossers as well as teens in the hopes that they won’t arouse suspicion,” the DOJ stated.

Fentanyl Seizures

Occurrences of authorities seizing fentanyl in Oklahoma have gone up in recent years, according to the BNDCC. In 2018, authorities did not seize any fentanyl, in 2019 they seized half a pound, in 2020 it was two pounds, by 2021 the number spiked to 18, and 2022 had a whopping 127 pounds.

However, the seizure of other drugs have gone up consistently with fentanyl, the BNDCC’s data shows. Meth saw a similar climb from 2018, 301 pounds seized, to 2022 with 3,492 pounds seized. The same was seen with marijuana, 1588 pounds seized in 2018, to 55736 pounds in 2022.

Drug Seizures In OklahomaImage Provided By: Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control

Influence In Other Criminal Activity

Investigations of illegal drugs in Oklahoma has led to the identification of brothels, illegal casinos, other drug production and distribution and labor trafficking. According to the BNDCC, drug trafficking organizations have ties with sex and labor trafficking and money laundering.

What To Do During An Overdose

Fentanyl overdoses are extremely dangerous and require medical treatment. The American Addiction Centers advises that someone call 911 immediately. The AAC says overdoses can include small pupils, shallow breathing, cold skin, pale skin, blue or purple lips or fingers, no breathing, unconsciousness, limp limbs, slurred speech or inability to speak, unresponsiveness, vomiting, or choking.

AAC says to follow these steps if you believe someone is having a fentanyl overdose:

  1. Call 911
  2. Administer naloxone. Naloxone is used to quickly reverse an opioid overdose. There is an injectable solution and a nasal spray. Naloxone may need to be administered more than once.
  3. Turn the person on their side to prevent choking.
  4. Stay with the person and monitor their breathing until medical assistance.


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