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Press Release

North Carolina Man Who Caused Dubuque Man’s Death Sentenced to Over 30 Years in Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Sold Fentanyl for a Living

A North Carolina man who sold fentanyl to a Dubuque, Iowa, man who overdosed and died was sentenced today to more than 30 years in prison.

James Adam Earwood, age 39, of Rutherfordton, North Carolina, received the prison sentence after a jury found Earwood guilty on October 5, 2023, of distribution of a controlled substance, heroin and fentanyl, causing the death of the victim.

Evidence introduced at trial and sentencing showed that on November 18, 2021, Earwood mailed a package of heroin and fentanyl to the victim.  Earwood was living in North Carolina at the time and the victim was living in Dubuque.  The victim used the heroin and fentanyl and overdosed in the parking lot of a local business.  The victim survived the overdose.  One month later, on December 17, 2021, the victim received another package of heroin and fentanyl in the mail from Earwood.  The victim used the heroin and fentanyl and died shortly thereafter.  He was found deceased by hotel staff in a hotel in Dubuque.  

Earwood operated what he deemed to be a business selling fentanyl for at least a year.  The business had a name, which he marketed, and even included the business’s logo in packages of fentanyl that he sold.  Earwood marketed his product to a private Facebook group for recovering heroin addicts.  He asked his customers to leave positive reviews of his products.  Earwood bragged about the quality of his product and even used the victim’s death to show how strong his product was.  He would ship his product nationwide using the US Postal Service or would leave the product for local customers in discreet locations so the customer could later find it.  

Earwood was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by Chief United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Earwood was sentenced to 365 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a 5-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ashley Corkery, Patrick Reinert, and Devra Hake, and was investigated as part of the Northern Iowa Heroin Initiative and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program of the United States Department of Justice through a cooperative effort of the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Dubuque Drug Task Force which includes the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office and the Dubuque Police Department, and the Rutherford County North Carolina Drug Task Force. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 22-CR-1024.

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Updated April 5, 2024

Drug Trafficking