Four reindicted in drug-related deaths

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   An Elizabethton woman charged in last year's drug-related death of 23-year-old James Aaron Cornett of Elizabethton and three persons charged as accessories after the fact were reindicted Monday by a Carter County Grand Jury.
   Natasha Michaela Bowers was charged in the indictment with second-degree murder after she allegedly distributed oxycodone, a Schedule II drug, to Cornett. During investigation of the case, co-defendants Johnny Scott Williams, Heather Rhea Kropp and Kathy Diane Benfield told Carter County Sheriff's Department Investigator Audrey Covington that Bowers injected Cornett twice with a needle filled with oxycodone. Cornett collapsed after the second shot and was taken to a bedroom and watched over until he quit breathing. Bowers, Williams and Kropp also injected the drug.
   Covington presented case information to the grand jury in March, which returned true bills charging Bowers with second-degree murder, and Williams, Kropp and Benfield each with accessory after the fact. Monday's reindictment charges Williams, Kropp and Benfield with criminally negligent homicide for failure to render aid.
   Dr. Gretel Harlan of Quillen College of Medicine notified the sheriff's department in January that Cornett's death resulted from respiratory suppression due to toxic levels of oxycodone, a form of OxyContin used to manage moderate to severe pain.
   Ralph Myers of Elizabethton also was reindicted Monday by the grand jury on a charge of second-degree murder. According to the indictment, Myers unlawfully distributed methadone, a Schedule II drug, to Justin Vanover of Elizabethton on Dec. 19, 2000, resulting in his death.