Keizer woman’s death spurs federal drug indictments

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By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes 

A Keizer woman’s death of a heroin overdose led to federal indictments against five men, it was announced Friday.

Laurin Putnam, a 21-year-old Keizer resident, was discovered at her home dead of a heroin overdose on Monday, April 16. Her death was the fourth fatal heroin overdose in 2012, and highlights a startling trend statewide.

“The tragic death of Ms. Putnam was the fourth heroin overdose death this year in Keizer and it highlights the growing heroin problem in our area,” said Keizer Police Chief Marc Adams.

At the current pace, federal officials said more than 100 lives could be lost due to heroin in 2012. Statewide heroin deaths jumped nearly 60 percent last year, to 143. The year with the second-highest number of heroin overdose deaths was 131 in 2000.

In the four days after Putnam’s death, officers from Keizer and Salem police, the Salem Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force and numerous other agencies made arrests and conducted searches throughout Marion, Washington and Multnomah counties along with Vancouver, Wash., finding more than four pounds of heroin along with methamphetamine, cocaine, guns and more than $20,000.

“Those responsible for Laurin Putnam’s overdose are distributors of death and despair, from the source and his runners, to his wholesalers and retail level street dealers,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. “This is an exceptional case wherein we were able to follow the heroin supply chain from the victim’s arm to the doorstep of an out of state source of supply whom she had never even met. DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue our efforts to combat drug trafficking at every level.”

Indicted in federal court in Portland were Sergio Quezada Lopez, 33, Braulio Acosta Mendoza, 34, Jose Romo Gonzalez, 22, Jose Aldan Soto, 30, and Julian Hernandez Castillo, 31. Each were charged with distribution of heroin that resulted in death. Lopez was arraigned Friday, and others are expected to appear in court in the near future. All citizens of Mexico, they are also on hold from the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency.

“Our partnership with the DEA and area law enforcement in this investigation shows that we can and will track down those who are linked to her death and hold them accountable,” Adams said.

Those with prior felony drug convictions face a mandatory sentence of life in prison with a $20 million fine, while those without would see mandated sentences of 20 years in federal custody and a $10 million penalty.

Putnam was a graduate of West Salem High School, where she played on a softball team that won the Central Valley Conference championship in 2008.

Other agencies playing a role included the Marion County Sheriff’s Office; Oregon State Police; the Washington County Interagency Narcotics Team (WIN); the Portland Police Bureau; the Oregon State Medical Examiner; the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force; the Oregon Department of Justice; and, the Portland based Highway Interdiction Team.

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