SCOTTSBURG, Ind. — An Indiana man is facing multiple charges after a woman was found dead from an apparent overdose in a Scott County hotel room.
Wilburn Bingaman made his first appearance before a judge this week. He's been charged with dealing in a narcotic drug and dealing in a controlled substance resulting in death.
The second charge, a level one felony, carries a possible sentence of 20 to 40 years, according to Scott County prosecutor Chris Owens.
Owens said this is just the second time his office has leveled the charge, which was established by a state statute less than two years ago.
“People who are dealing these drugs that are poisoning our communities oftentimes were serving jail or prison sentences and getting out to turn right back to it," Owens said. "So this is a tool we can use to lock these drugs dealers back up.”
Owens acknowledges issues of addiction and overdose have long been an issue in Scott County, and he said prosecutors want to crack down on the people responsible for bringing drugs into the community.
He said the penalties for this newer charge are steeper than the two to 12 years associated with just dealing narcotics.
"We want to send a message to people out there, you don't want to deal drugs in Scott County because we're coming after you," he said. “Here in Indiana, we’re sick and tired of people selling these illegal drugs and poisoning our citizens."
Phil Stucky with THRIVE, a recovery organization based in Scott County, said more penalties for people charged with drug crimes might not address the underlying issues.
"It's a hard one on our heart, because we know the majority of the time when people commit these crimes it's to feed their addiction," Stucky said. “We see all the time when one gets arrested 10 more pop up. The majority of what we see in Scott County isn’t the Pablo Escobar's of the world. It’s the people trying to feed their addiction."
Stucky said people do need to be held accountable, but believes resources are the long term solution to issues of addiction and the opioid epidemic.
Southern Indiana counties are receiving millions in payouts from the recent opioid epidemic settlement. Stucky sees those funds as a key opportunity.
"It needs to go into the recovery community, it needs to shore up more therapists, we need better infrastructure when people ask for help," he said.
Owens said the prosecutor's office is working with local law enforcement on a task force, to further investigate overdose deaths.
"It's a fight and it's going to be a long fight. It's not something that's going to happen overnight," he said. "We've been working hard to bring charges like this."
According to jail records, Bingaman being held on a $100,000 bond.
According to court documents, on Jan. 3, officers responded to a report of an unconscious woman at the I-65 Suites in Scottsburg. They found a 38-year-old woman dead form an apparent overdose.
Police say Bingaman, who said he was the woman's boyfriend, was also in the room.
According to a probable cause affidavit, when asked if the woman may have taken any drugs, Bingaman pulled a bottle of Hydrocodone / Acetaminophen from his pocket and said she may have taken a few pills, but he wasn't sure.
Bingaman said he refilled the prescription at a pain clinic before returning to the hotel with the woman and laying down for a nap. When he woke up, he left for Circle K, but forgot his keys and called another witness for a spare key.
When the men opened the hotel room door, the woman was unconscious.
Bingaman later admitted to police he gave the woman two of the pills for severe back pain. Documents say Bingaman continued talking to police and then admitted he gave her four or five more before laying down.
The affidavit states when police asked if he believed the pills may have killed the woman, Bingaman said "yes."
Bingaman made his first court appearance this week. A trial is scheduled for March.
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