Heroin dealer sentenced to 31 years

U.S. Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr., left, praises area efforts to stop heroin trafficking at a news conference in front of the Winchester Police Department on Wednesday afternoon. Other area officials at the conference included, second from left: Winchester Police Chief Kevin Sanzenbacher, Drug Enforcement Agency Agent Stanley Kennedy, and Virginia State Police Special Agent Jay Perry. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

WINCHESTER – A Maryland man connected with three heroin overdose deaths in and around Winchester was sentenced Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg.

Warren Evans Jr., of Windsor Mill, Maryland, will serve 31 years in federal prison, authorities announced Wednesday afternoon.

John P. Fishwick Jr., U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, addressed Evans’ case and efforts to quash the heroin epidemic of recent years at a news conference outside the Winchester Police Department. He was joined by a number of area officials.

Fishwick said Evans conspired with his partner Christopher Giles, 28, of Randallstown, Maryland,  to distribute more than 1,000 grams of heroin and 200 grams of crack cocaine, along with powder cocaine, in and around Winchester.

Drugs trafficked into the Winchester area that trace back to Evans and Giles caused six overdoses in 2013 and 2014 – three of them fatal. Fishwick said one death involved heroin that contained fentanyl, the drug reported to have caused the recent death of Prince.

“I know for the families of the three people who lost their lives due to the drugs Mr. Evans and Mr. Giles sent into Winchester, no amount of time in federal prison can bring their loved ones back,” he said.

An April 7 release from the Western District of Virginia U.S. Attorney’s Office states that Giles was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute heroin and cocaine. At that time, Evans had entered a similar guilty plea but was awaiting a sentence between 20 years and life in prison.

Fishwick attributed successes in heroin epidemic cases like this one to the law enforcement partnership of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force and the “Winchester model.”

“This has been an incredible team effort, an effort that we’re very proud of,” he said.

Winchester Police Chief Kevin Sanzenbacher later termed that model the “Northern Shenandoah Valley model” used by the drug task force, in which investigators begin working off of overdoses once those cases are reported.

Within the “heroin highway” coming from Baltimore, Sanzenbacher said tracking the epidemic bears challenges in limited jurisdiction across state lines. Both Sanzenbacher and Fishwick also spoke to the importance of preventive measures and treatments alongside enforcement.

Lt. Wallace Stotlemyer, of the Winchester Police Department, is a supervising agent for the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force and said he’s been with the task force for 13 years. In that time, he said the number of overdoses linked to Evans and Giles have made their cases the largest he’s seen.

“Responding to these overdoses immediately as they occur and starting to obtain that information led directly to us being able to identify the source city as well as the source distributors a whole lot quicker,” he said.

Stotlemyer said these investigations involved a number of different operations along with rapid overdose response, including extensive interviews, electronic data research, controlled buys conducted by law enforcement and working with other jurisdictions.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com