3 men charged in fentanyl overdose of Crystal Lake man who died walking home in March

Markeeon Neal, Matthew Barfield and Jeramee Brown.

Three men have been charged in connection with the fentanyl overdose of a Crystal Lake man.

Charged in the overdose death are Jeramee Brown, 22, of Crystal Lake, as well as Markeeon Neal, 29, and Matthew Barfield, 22, both of Rockford, according to court records filed in McHenry County.

Brown was arrested and charged March 11 with possession and delivery of fentanyl; those charges were upgraded March 12 to include drug-induced homicide, a Class X felony, and delivery of a controlled substance, a Class 2 felony, court and police records show.

Neal and Barfield were arrested this month and charged with drug-induced homicide, Class X felonies, a prosecutor said Thursday during their detention hearings where Judge Carl Metz ordered they be held in the McHenry County jail pretrial.

If convicted on the Class X felonies each man could be sentenced six to 30 years in prison. If found to be extended term eligible they could face up to 60 years in prison.

Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Miller said that on March 11, Brown was in his Crystal Lake apartment when he contacted Barfield to purchase drugs. Barfield then contacted Neal who is his “supplier,” Miller said. Neal and Barfield then went to Brown’s apartment and sold him the narcotic, which Barfield told Brown contained fentanyl and to “be careful,” Miller said.

Brown inhaled the substance with another man who later collapse while walking home and died from an overdose, Miller said, adding that, after learning of the death, Barfield said in a message to Brown saying, “I told you be careful, bro.” Barfield then advised Brown to “cut” the remaining powder, meaning add in another substance to lessen fentanyl’s effect, Miller said.

Barfield is “accountable” because he “set up the entire drug deal under the accountability theory of drug-induced homicide,” Miller said. “He is a danger to the community. He knew full-well he was engaging in activities he knew could kill someone and it did kill someone.”

Miller argued against Barfield’s release to his parents’ home in Wisconsin on home confinement, saying, “Home confinement doesn’t limit” his ability to sell drugs and that there is “nothing to stop him from selling ... “poison, poison he knew could kill somebody” out of his home.

Assistant Public Defender David Giesinger said Barfield scored a zero on a dangerousness evaluation and if released, would be living in Madison, Wisconsin, with his parents, where he could not sell drugs. Giesinger said “the deal was between Brown and [Neal]” and questioned how many “degrees of separation” prosecutors would go in charging people in the death and how Barfield could be involved. He took “no proceeds from the deal,” Giesinger said.

In ruling Barfield remain in jail, Metz said Barfield showed “a disregard for how dangerous the drug is,” and referred to Facebook messages where Barfield allegedly wrote about drug deals and that “his supplier is Markeeon Neal.” Metz also said that Barfield living in Madison makes “it more likely he could commit another offense.”

In arguing for his release, Giesinger noted that Barfield recently successfully completed probation in Wisconsin on a previous, unrelated offense. But Metz said the fact that Barfield committed an earlier offense, served probation and soon after allegedly committed the present offense did not help in his attempt to be released.

Miller argued much the same in asking for a denial of Neal’s pretrial release saying “anybody selling fentanyl is a danger to the community” and that home confinement would not deter Neal from potentially selling drugs. Neal also was on probation for a domestic battery conviction in Winnebago County when he allegedly sold drugs to Brown, Miller said.

“They know they are selling fentanyl ... for the money,” Miller said. “This is business not personal. ... He has a complete disregard for people’s lives.”

Giesinger also argued for Neal’s release and home confinement, saying he scored a five on a dangerousness evaluation and has no prior drug-related offenses. Giesinger also said it was Brown who ultimately gave the drugs to the man who died.

Metz noted that Neal was on probation at the time of the alleged drug deal and a history of violating bail. He also agreed Neal is a threat to the community, saying: “It’s clear he is selling fentanyl ... anybody knows it’s a killer drug.”

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