Trial dates set for defendants charged in Oxycodone death
By Thomas Wilson


   An Elizabethton woman charged with second degree murder and three others charged with accessory after the fact of criminally negligent homicide are scheduled to go to trial in September.
   Judge Robert E. Cupp set Sept. 4-5 trial dates for Natasha M. Bowers, 22, of Elizabethton charged with second degree murder in Criminal Court on Friday. Bowers is one of four people facing charges following last year's drug-related death of 23-year-old James Aaron Cornett of Elizabethton.
   Kathy Diane Benfield, 45, Heather Kropp, 22, and Johnny Scott Williams, 23, have all been charged with accessory after the fact of criminally negligent homicide by the District Attorney's office involving Cornett's death. All three had trial dates scheduled for Sept. 4-5 in Criminal Court on Friday.
   Carter County Sheriff's deputies responded to Benfield's residence at 879 Blue Springs Road, in March 2001 regarding a possible overdose. On arrival, deputies reported finding Cornett receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation by the Carter County Rescue Squad paramedics. Cornett was later pronounced dead.
   While statements were being taken from witnesses Bowers, Kropp, Benfield and Williams, the sheriff's department was notified that Cornett had died, and an autopsy was ordered.
   In January, the autopsy performed at the Quillen College of Medicine reported 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.
   After the autopsy result, Carter County Sheriff's Department investigators brought all witnesses back in for questioning. Each allegedly told police that Bowers sold Cornett two oxycodone tablets after which Bowers, Williams, Kropp and Cornett went into the bathroom and injected the drug.
   According to the investigation reports, 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.
   The Carter County Grand Jury returned true bills charging Bowers with second-degree murder, and Williams, Kropp and Benfield each with accessory after the fact in March.
   Cupp also sentenced James Edward Walton to two three-year sentences on two charges of aggravated burglary. He also received a two year sentence on a charge of theft over $1,000.
   All three sentences will run consecutively.
   Cupp also sentenced Walton to two three-year sentences on two counts of theft over $10,000. Those sentences will run concurrently with the sentences for aggravated burglary.
   In other cases, Michael Glenn Puckett was sentenced to 18 months in jail and a $3,000 fine on a charge of DUI, 8th offense. He also had his driver's license revoked for five years. Charges of violation of the implied consent law and violation of the open container law were dismissed.
   Cases reset to Sept. 6 included those of Leroy Foster who is charged with statutory rape and Neil M. Friedman who is charged with DUI, 3rd offense, driving on a revoked license, and violation of probation.