Police: Woman accused in teen’s overdose death relapsed following rehab


GREENFIELD — The woman accused of reckless homicide in the overdose death of a local teen also suffered from drug addiction and had relapsed after a stint in rehab, officials said.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton talked about Anna Southgate’s history, brushes with the law followed by attempts to get her some help, during the 19-year-old Greenfield woman’s initial hearing Friday.

Southgate, 933 Gondola Run, pleaded not guilty in Hancock Circuit Court to reckless homicide and drug-dealing charges in connection with the death of 16-year-old Jacob Root, who police say shot up a fatal dose of heroin and fentanyl in early January.

Prior to new charges being brought against her, Southgate had shown a pattern of addiction, and Eaton pointed to that history, including some undisclosed juvenile cases, while asking a judge to hold the woman in jail on a $100,000 cash bond.

Eaton told the judge local police knew Southgate was using drugs, that she had gone through a program at Fairbanks, a drug treatment facility in Indianapolis, but relapsed. He did not disclose details about when she was treated or for how long.

Southgate was arrested July 22, 2017, after police stopped her on suspicion of drunken-driving. Inside her car, they discovered numerous syringes, a baggy of marijuana and a powdered substance that later tested positive for cocaine, according to court documents.

She was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a syringe, possession of cocaine and possession of paraphernalia. She was released from jail two days later after paying a $2,500 cash bond, records show.

Root’s overdose Jan. 3 occurred while that case was still pending; and Eaton said the suspicion she was involved with the teen’s death was enough for his prosecutors to ask a judge to revoke her bond.

Southgate was arrested Jan. 12, nine days after Root’s death, and was held in the Hancock County Jail for nearly a month while local detectives built the case against her.

Officers who interviewed Southgate, who admitted to using heroin that morning and said the paraphernalia found in the home was hers, could have arrested her the day the teen died; but prosecutors wanted the strongest evidence to support the most serious charges, Eaton said.

“There was an exhaustive investigation, looking at it from every angle,” Eaton said.

Officers interviewed others connected to case, including Root’s relatives, and filed for a search warrant to download information from Southgate’s phone, which revealed the Google searches, records show.

They also awaited toxicology results, which came about three weeks later and revealed some of the case’s most concerning evidence, Greenfield Police Chief Jeff Rasche said: the amount of fentanyl found in Roots’s system was 10 times the amount the human body can typically withstand, records state.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid-based painkiller that is more than 50 times more potent than morphine, and drug dealers are more regularly mixing it with the heroin they sell.

Fentanyl is so potent that anything more than .10 nanograms per milliliter will kill a person; Root had 1.7 nanograms per milliliter of fentanyl in his system at death, records show.

“We haven’t seen those tox levels in anybody,” Rasche said.

In a way, it prompted detectives to change how they look at some drug-related cases, particularly those involving overdose deaths, Rasche said. They have to look at who shared the drugs as well as who sold them and hold both accountable for their actions, he said.

Any person using drugs who shares their stash with friends risks dealing charges like Southgate, and Rasche said officers are ready to start looking at more cases this way in order to deter drug activity.

Investigators say Southgate showed Root how to inject the drug, handed him a syringe full of the substances and taught him how to properly insert it in his hand, police say. Then, she watched as he overdosed and Google-searched advice on how to intervene as his condition declined, with search terms including “what to do if your friend has overdosed” and “the dying process.”

She never called 911, police said.

“That’s a whole other ballpark we’ve got to start playing in,” Rasche said. “We got to take these a step further now, look a bit deeper. It’s time that people realize that when others are involved, they can be responsible, too.”