Police in Howell Township are celebrating an indictment of a drug dealer from Trenton who delivered a fatal dose of heroin to a 31 year old township man last year.
“The probable cause required to charge someone with this strict liability offense has a very high standard to meet. This first degree charge is equivalent to homicide,” said Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick. “These types of cases are rare and complex and require a great deal of effort by officers and prosecutors. I am proud of the work put forth by my officers and thank the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office for their continued partnership in battling this opioid epidemic.”
by Chris Swendenmen
FREEHOLD – A Monmouth County Grand Jury handed up a four count Indictment charging a Trenton man with selling heroin that led to the overdose death of a Howell Township resident back in May, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
John R. Varra, 50, of Trenton, is charged with first degree Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Deaths and third degree Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance, in connection with the sale of heroin on May 1, 2017 that led to the overdose death of a 31-year old Howell Township man. He is also charged with third degree Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance and third degree of Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance with Intent to Distribute, as a result of being found in possession of heroin on the evening of May 3, 2017, approximately 2 days after distributing the fatal dose to the victim on May 1, 2017. Varra was arrested by officers from Howell Township Police Department’s Crime Suppression Unit and Investigative Division.
On May 3, 2017, at approximately 12:25 a.m., Howell Police received a 911 call from a resident reporting that her 31-year old husband was unresponsive. Patrol units were dispatched and subsequently found the victim in his bedroom. Police and medical personnel tried to revive the victim, but lifesaving efforts, including the administration of naloxone, were unsuccessful. The victim was pronounced deceased at approximately 1:07 a.m. on May 3, 2017.
Detectives from the Howell Township Police Department arrived shortly thereafter and began to aggressively investigate the incident, seeking to determine who had distributed the heroin to the victim. After learning that Varra may have been responsible, detectives continued to investigate the incident and Howell Police located Varra within their town. Varra was subsequently placed under arrest later that same day. A quantity of heroin was then lawfully seized from his vehicle.
The postmortem examination conducted by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office indicated that the cause of the victim’s death was “Acute Heroin Toxicity.”
Prosecutor Gramiccioni praised the dedication of the officers assigned to Howell Township’s Crime Suppression Unit and Investigations Division, under the direction of Chief Andrew Kudrick. “We all realize that the opioid epidemic is a monumental challenge within our communities – many thanks to the Howell Township Police Department for vigorously investigating this overdose death, leading to the identification of the dealer and an Indictment in connection with this tragic death.”
If convicted of first degree Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Death, Varra faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in a New Jersey state prison without parole and a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” (NERA) requiring him to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release.
The crimes of third degree Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance, third degree Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance and third degree Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance each carry a sentence of five to ten years imprisonment.
The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher J. Decker, Director of the Office’s Major Crimes Bureau.
Varra is represented by Joshua Hood, Esq. of Freehold.
Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.