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Another opioid murder trial underway in St. Mary's

Leonardtown, MD- The trial for a Leonardtown man charged with second-degree depraved heart murder got underway Monday, Feb. 12 in St. Mary’s County Circuit Court. Judge David W. Densford is overseeing the trial.

Geoffrey Uhall, 30, (pictured left) is also charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, controlled dangerous substance (CDS) distribution and CDS possession.

St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney Richard Fritz is prosecuting the case. During his opening statements, Fritz told the jury Uhall is guilty of contributing to the overdose death of Colleen Cord.

Fritz said Uhall picked up Cord at her apartment in Lexington Park April 19, 2017. From there, Uhall and Cord traveled to another location and purchased heroin. Uhall then dropped off Cord at her home and left.

Uhall’s attorney, James Farmer, didn’t disagree with those statements. Uhall admitted to police he was with Cord, helped her purchase heroin, and provided police the name of his dealer.

The next day, April 20, 2017, a neighbor became concerned after hearing Cord’s dog barking. The apartment manager, Bonnie Anderson, testified she entered Cord’s apartment to check on her and that’s when she found Cord deceased in her bedroom.

A forensic investigator, Patrick Best, confirmed Cord had been deceased for 12 to 24 hours before she was found.

An autopsy report concluded Cord (pictured right) died from a combination of heroin, fentanyl, tramadol and cocaine. During his interview with detectives, Uhall admitted to police he knew heroin could be deadly and Fritz said that is why he should be held accountable for Cord’s death.

During his opening statements, Farmer told the jury a number of drugs were found in Cord’s apartment, including both illegal drugs and prescription drugs—some for which she did not have a prescription.

Farmer also told the jury the medical examiner did not find any drug residue in Cord’s nose, which would be evident if she had recently snorted the heroin. He also noted Cord was found deceased in her bedroom and the heroin was found in the living room.

In addition, Farmer pointed out Cord’s long battle with addiction and her chronic medical conditions. Cord had a history of obtaining opioids from multiple physicians.
The defense then referred to the interview Uhall had with St. Mary’s County narcotics detectives, who told Uhall “you’re not going to jail, we just want the name of the dealer.”

Five witnesses testified following opening statements, including Susan Cord, Colleen’s older sister. She told the court Colleen had several medical problems, including Rheumatoid arthritis and depression. Susan said Colleen spent more than a year in a drug rehabilitation program back in the 1990s and a short time around 2009.

The first officer who responded to the scene April 20, 2017 was Deputy Rozier Steinbach. He confirmed to the court he did find evidence of several types of drugs and paraphernalia when he was securing the scene, including a rolled up currency note and a magazine clipping that was folded up with some powder inside—both of which are indications of CDS use.

Fritz has been seeking convictions against suspected drug dealers in connection with overdose deaths within the county. In August 2017, he announced indictments against eight individuals—each indictment included the charge of second-degree depraved heart murder.

Depraved heart murder has existed in Maryland for decades. The law allows prosecutors the opportunity to prove the suspect knowingly did something that was likely to kill another person. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Uhall’s trial will resume Tuesday morning.

Contact Joy Shrum at j.shrum@thebaynet.com

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