Malcolm Ogletree was sober for 16 months before he overdosed from fentanyl in February.
“He fought that demon every day,” his mother, Angie Ogletree said.
The man police say provided that fentanyl is charged with murder in the case, which went before Magistrate Court this week.
Whether Joshua Chad Evans, 32, of Dahlonega, is responsible for Ogletree’s death now could be decided by a jury after Magistrate Judge Andy Maddox determined Wednesday there was enough evidence to move the case forward.
Evans’ attorney, Jake Shapiro, asked Maddox to dismiss the felony murder charge.
The prosecuting attorney, Robert Gardner, said case law shows felony murder charges have been upheld in cases where the defendant gave drugs that caused another person’s death.
Felony murder is charged in Georgia when a person is accused of killing someone while commiting another felony, such as a possession of a schedule II drug with intent to distribute charge Evans also faces.
At the June 22 hearing, the question was whether probable cause existed to move the case forward.
Gainesville Police investigator Glenn Ewing was the only witness called at this early stage in the case, and he detailed what he found when he was called to the scene and the Facebook messages between the two that police obtained with a search warrant.
Ewing said he arrived at the Circle K on Candler Road early Feb. 14. Ogletree was pronounced dead when the coroner arrived that day but he had been in his truck in the parking lot for more than 24 hours, Ewing said. The autopsy showed his death was caused by intoxication from fentanyl.
“The car actually sat and ran there so long it ran out of gas,” Ewing said.
Gainesville detectives reviewed Facebook messages that showed Evans planned to meet with Ogletree, 34, and sell him fentanyl on Feb. 12, hours before he overdosed and died.
“(Ogletree) said he hadn’t done anything in a long time, and he had been in rehab,” Ewing said, referring to the messages.
Evans told Ogletree he should only take a small amount, Ewing said. Ewing learned from talking with Ogletree’s parents and a friend that Ogletree had been a heroin user, Ewing said.
Messages indicate they arranged to meet up. They discussed meeting at the Waffle House and then the location moved to the intersection of Baker and Candler roads. Ogletree sent a message to Evans that that was him in the black truck. About 20 minutes after those messages, Ogletree texted Evans saying he “wanted more,” Ewing said. That was their last correspondence.
Victims who overdose on fentanyl often go into cardiac arrest, and the process doesn’t take long, Ewing said.
Ewing testified that an officer reviewing video from the Circle K of Ogletree in his car showed him alive with his car light on around 2 a.m. Feb. 13, a few hours after the planned exchange between Evans and Ogletree.
Shapiro argued the messages are not clear that the meetup at Candler and Baker roads happened. Even if the exchange occurred, it would not constitute a felony murder charge, he said, because the overdose occurred hours later.
“There is no evidence at all that any fentanyl that Evans possessed caused Ogletree’s death,” Shapiro said.
Gardner argued there was no indication Ogletree had contact with anyone other than Evans after their planned meet up.
After taking a recess to review the case, Maddox determined there was probable cause for both charges. The next step in the case would be a grand jury indictment.
Evans remains in jail without bond.
Angie Ogletree said her son had just gotten his truck two weeks before his death. He started a job about a month before doing steelwork at Hydro Extrusions in Gainesville. He had been to rehab before and had struggled with a heroin addiction.
“He had been an addict and was really struggling, but he had worked hard to get clean,” she said.