A Greenwood mother knows that the person who sold her son the drugs that killed him hasn’t faced any consequences.

She saw the messages her son and his dealer exchanged before he died, and she continues to see the social media posts from that same person. She even gave police her son’s phone after he died so they could try to get evidence against people selling drugs.

No arrests have been made, and no one has been held responsible for selling the drugs that killed her son. And that is infuriating, said Jeanette Mails, whose son Tyler Coffey died of an overdose last year.

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Mails is hopeful to see some change that would hold drug dealers more accountable and perhaps get some of the drugs off the streets, she said.

“There doesn’t seem to be any pressure for them to not do it,” Mails said.

A new piece of legislation awaiting the governor’s signature would make it a felony charge for drug dealers who sell drugs that lead to someone’s death. The proposal, House Bill 1359, would make the crime anywhere from a Level 1 to a Level 3 felony, depending on what drug is being dealt. Those charges could carry prison sentences of anywhere from three to 40 years.

The legislation sends a much needed message to drug dealers that hopefully will get them to rethink what they are doing, said State Sen. Jim Merritt, who represents parts of Marion and Hamilton counties and co-sponsored the legislation. Merritt had made a similar Senate proposal that did not make it through the legislative session.

“When it comes to the big time drug dealers, we need a lot tougher penalties,” he said.

The change in the law won’t bring her son back, but Mails is hopeful that it could eventually help other families, she said.

“While it may not do anything to help us, it could save many other families from going through this,” she said.

Tougher penalties for drug dealers could discourage at least some people from dealing drugs, which could save lives if less drugs are available, she said.

Coffey, who was 23 when died of an overdose of fentanyl laced in heroin, made the choice to use drugs the day he died, and he paid the ultimate price for that choice, she said. But the person who sold those drugs knows they are illegal and knows that it could kill someone, but they don’t face the same consequences, she said.

In fact, Coffey spent a few three- and six-month stretches in jail after being caught possessing a needle, and some people who sell drugs don’t even spend that much time in jail, she said.

“Someone killed him, and they will be back on the street in the same amount of time for him carrying a needle,” Mails said.


Here is a look at the legislation awaiting the governor’s signature:

Makes manufacturing or dealing certain controlled substances resulting in the death of a user:

  • a Level 1 felony if the controlled substance is cocaine, methamphetamine, or a schedule I, II, or III controlled substance
  • a Level 2 felony if the controlled substance is a schedule IV controlled substance
  • a Level 3 felony if the controlled substance is a schedule V controlled substance or a synthetic drug or synthetic drug lookalike substance.
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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.