SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County authorities have arrested eight alleged drug dealers on murder charges in less than a 18 months on suspicion they sold toxic doses of drugs that killed the users.
It's more arrests than in any other county in that time frame.
Assistant State Attorney Dan Faggard said it's no accident that those arrests happened in Seminole County.
"We've made a concentrated effort to focus on the problem," Faggard said. "I will say that we are on the cusp of this issue."
Faggard is hesitant to give specific investigative techniques, but did say his office met with law enforcement agencies and that helped change how they respond to overdose calls, including the evidence they look for.
"Your phone can tell me a lot about you," he said.
News 6 has learned that a cellphone is how Altamonte Springs Police tracked down 26-year-old Tyron Bradshaw, who is accused of selling a deadly dose of heroin and fentanyl to 32-year-old Mark Nelson.
Altamonte Springs police tracked Bradshaw down through text messages he exchanged with Nelson the night before Nelson died.
Records obtained by News 6 show a phone is also how police found 30-year-old Christopher Toro. Police and family members believe Toro sold the fatal dose of drugs to 32-year-old Alfonso Pagan.
But at his first appearance, Toro's public defender raised a question that prosecutors will likely hear again: Are text messages really the smoking gun needed for a conviction?
"There's nothing in here (arrest affidavit) that says the drugs they found in the victim's pockets were sold to him by this defendant," the attorney argued.
The judge in the case still denied Toro bail.
When asked if text messages will be enough for convictions, Faggard responded: "I don't file on cases unless I believe we can successfully prosecute them beyond a reasonable doubt."
Faggard said there will be more accused drug dealers arrested and charged with murder not only in Seminole County, but across the state.
Prosecutors are hoping the arrests put a dent in the opioid crisis.