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Press Release

Cleveland man pleads guilty to selling drugs that resulted in fatal overdose inside downtown hotel last year

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Ohio

A Cleveland man pleaded guilty to selling drugs that resulted in a fatal overdose of a man inside a hotel in downtown Cleveland last year.

Terry Lee Christian, 36, was indicted Wednesday on one count of distribution of controlled substances, which included a sentencing enhancement for causing death. He is scheduled to be sentenced January 17, 2020.

Christian admitted to causing the death of a person identified in court papers as S.K. on July 13.

“This case demonstrates yet again that there are no safe street drugs, and the drug dealers who sell them, like this defendant, are focused only on their own interests,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “By all accounts, the victim in this case believed he was buying cocaine, not fentanyl. People should assume that the cocaine they are buying on the street contains fentanyl and can kill them, even in small doses. Unfortunately the victim in this case is just one of hundreds who have died from cocaine and fentanyl mixes in Cuyahoga County since last year.”

 “This case highlights the collaboration between the Cleveland Division of Police Heroin Death Investigators, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Science Laboratory and the Northern Ohio United States District Attorney’s Office,” said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin D. Williams. “The indictment of Mr. Christian should serve as an example to those trafficking in these dangerous and deadly narcotics.  Through thorough investigations and the efforts of the attorneys who prosecute the cases, these criminals can be held accountable at the highest level.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin said: “This death underscores the seriousness of the opioid crisis plaguing northern Ohio and the need for dedicated collaboration from law enforcement. The DEA, Cleveland Division of Police and the United States Attorney’s Office will continue to expend our time, energy and resources in an effort to stem the tide against this epidemic.”

Members of the Cleveland Division of Police’s Heroin Involved Death Investigations Unit responded to a drug overdose at a hotel room in Cleveland on July 14, 2018. Officers observed a bag of suspected cocaine on the dresser and suspected cocaine residue on the dresser and bathroom vanity, according to an affidavit filed in the case.

The narcotics were tested and found to be a mixture of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. The packaging material was tested and DNA found on the package matched Christian, according to the affidavit.

A review of the victim’s phone and other evidence revealed the man who overdosed met with Christian on July 13 and several calls between them on that day. Shortly after the calls and meeting, the man who overdosed made a hand-to-hand transaction with someone in a minivan, according to the affidavit.

The Cleveland Division of Police and Drug Enforcement Administration investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vasile Katsaros and Kathryn Andrachik are prosecuting the case.


Mike Tobin 216-622-3651

Updated April 17, 2023