Crystal Lake man charged with drug-induced homicide, drug conspiracy

Ryan George James

A 25-year-old Crystal Lake man was charged with drug-induced homicide and criminal drug conspiracy in connection with the death of a 27-year-old man last summer, court records show.

Both charges against Ryan George James, of the 3600 block of Smoke Tree Lane, are Class X felonies, which typically carry sentences of six to 30 years in prison and are not probational.

Colton Steiner was found dead on June 23 from a fentanyl overdose, according to a motion prosecutors filed Friday.

The Crystal Lake man instantly lit up a room when he walked into it, according to an obituary and an online fundraiser set up last summer to raise money for his funeral costs.

“[Whether] it was the sound of his loud laugh or him simply cracking a joke, he brought smiles to everybody’s faces and [brought] such beautiful energy to the table,” according to the online fundraiser.

Prosecutors alleged in a motion filed Friday that James told members of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Task Force in December that around the time of Steiner’s death, he provided fentanyl pills to another man while Steiner was in the passenger seat of James’ vehicle.

Cellphone tower data shows that Steiner and the other man then traveled to James’ home and then returned to Steiner’s house the day Steiner died, according to the motion. Steiner did not leave his home again.

James was charged in December with possession and possession with the intent to deliver less than 15 grams of fentanyl, according to a criminal complaint.

The other man has not been charged in connection with Steiner’s death. Prosecutors filed a petition for indirect criminal contempt in December after they said the man was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury investigating an overdose death.

A warrant for his arrest remained active as of Tuesday, court records show.

According to a motion prosecutors filed Friday, James told officers he had been purchasing about 100 pressed fentanyl pills every one or two weeks and selling them. James identified Lucius Hemphill as “his exclusive source for the pills,” prosecutors said in the motion.

Officers then arranged for Hemphill to bring 100 fentanyl pills to a designated location, and Hemphill arrived there with 123 pills that field tested positive for fentanyl, according to the motion.

Hemphill was subsequently charged with possession and possession with intent to deliver less than 15 grams of fentanyl. That case is ongoing.

James also told officers that the man he was with before prior to Steiner’s death would sometimes drive him to meet with Hemphill or go on his behalf to pick the drugs up, according to the motion. Prosecutors said James’ phone showed messages with Hemphill setting up transactions with the three of them.

That man has not been charged in connection with Steiner’s death.

Bond was originally set at $250,000 but reduced Monday to $50,000, meaning $5,000 would need to be posted to secure James’ release. The judge ordered that the source of any bond funds be determined to ensure they are not related to drug trafficking.

James remained in the McHenry County Jail as of Tuesday afternoon.