Man found guilty of controlled substance homicide in fentanyl death

A jury found 27-year-old Dylan W. Vanosdol guilty of controlled substance homicide.

An Oak Harbor man may be the first person in Island County to be held criminally responsible for unlawfully providing someone with a drug that caused an overdose death.

A jury in Island County Superior Court last week found 27-year-old Dylan W. Vanosdol guilty of controlled substance homicide in the death of Jose Colon Jr. on June 2, 2020. The jury also found him guilty of dealing fentanyl.

Vanosdol sold a counterfeit Percocet pill laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 100 times stronger than morphine, to Colon, who was his mother’s boyfriend.

Both the investigation and trial provided insight into opioid abuse on Whidbey Island, which has become even more dangerous as counterfeit pain pills laced with fentanyl continue to circulate. A medical examiner, toxicology experts and detectives testified at trial about the deadly potency of the drug and the increase in overdose deaths due to its ubiquity.

“It’s a tragedy both for the victim and the defendant,” Deputy Prosecutor Michael Safstrom said after the trial. “It’s the kind of tragedy that will repeat itself until something is done to stop it.”

The state Department of Health reported that drug-related overdose deaths statewide increased by 66% from 2019 to 2021; more than half the deaths were from fentanyl. At least 10 people died from overdoses in Island County last year. Health officials urge all users and their family members to carry naloxone to prevent deaths.

“Overdose deaths are a public health emergency, and fentanyl is a major driver,” said Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, the Department of Health chief science officer. “What looks like a prescription oxycodone pill could be a counterfeit with more than enough fentanyl to kill. People who use drugs should assume that any drugs bought on the street, online or from a friend has fentanyl.”

Vanosdol was interviewed by detectives from a Skagit County drug task force as well as an Oak Harbor detective after texts showed that he offered to sell his mother and Colon “percs.” He later admitted that he delivered a pill and a half just prior to Colon’s death, according to court documents.

Vanosdol told detectives that his lifelong friend had overdosed on fentanyl and died just a few months before Colon overdosed.

Vanosdol admitted he was addicted to opioid pills and sometimes used fake Percocet pills containing fentanyl, which he crushed and snorted. He said he purchased pills from dealers in Oak Harbor and Mount Vernon but wouldn’t name anyone, according to court records. He said he rarely “middled,” which means to resell the pills to another user, but admitted to selling pills to his mother and the friend who overdosed.

Colon and Vanosdol’s mother, who passed away prior to trial, lived together at the Acorn Motel in Oak Harbor. Vanosdol told detectives that they regularly abused alcohol and opioids. His mother called him early in the morning of Colon’s death to tell him what had happened, saying that Colon vomited on the bed and then stopped moving. She warned him about using the pills.

Vanosdol was late to the start of his trial, which began April 5 and ended April 14 with the verdict. The judge issued an arrest warrant, which was quashed when he showed up in the afternoon.

At trial, Vanosdol denied providing Colon with the fentanyl. He took the stand in his defense and testified that he received a prescription after he got his wisdom teeth pulled and shared the pills with his mother, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Vanosol’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 2. He faces four years and three months to five years and eight months in prison.