Port Angeles teen charged in suspected heroin death; police investigate another death as possibly due to overdose

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A 18-year-old Port Angeles man has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge related to drug trafficking after a teen died of a suspected heroin overdose.

And a drug-related homicide charge is possible in the coming weeks, according to the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, police are investigating another death last week to see if it, too, might be related to heroin.

David Zavodny entered his plea Friday to one count of maintaining premises for drug trafficking, a Class C felony.

The Clallam County Superior Court courtroom was packed with friends and family of Maceo Niehaus, 17, of Port Angeles.

Authorities said Niehaus died in Zavodny’s Ennis Street home of a suspected overdose on heroin that Zavodny allegedly provided him.

Extra security was in force at the courthouse because of a threat made against Zavodny, authorities said.

Both Port Angeles police and fire officials have said Niehaus’ death was the fifth heroin overdose, and the first death, in the area that both agencies have responded to in the past 10 days or so.

But Brian Smith, deputy police chief, said Friday that police also are investigating another death potentially related to heroin.

Paramedics were unable to revive a woman, 37-year-old Jamie L. Bryant of Montesano, in a house in the 600 block of East 10th Street at about 1:15 p.m. Monday, Smith said.

“The facts as we have them would indicate it’s a strong possibility” that heroin contributed to the death, Smith said.

However, Smith said evidence that would have allowed police to confirm Bryant’s death was heroin-related, such as presence of the drug or a witness statement, was not found.

Heroin use has increased across the North Olympic Peninsula in the past two years, law enforcement officials have said.

Fire Chief Sam Phillips of Clallam County Fire District No. 2, which covers the area just outside Port Angeles, said last week his paramedics were called to two heroin overdose calls in the past month. He did not know whether the people survived.

Zavodny originally was booked into the Clallam County jail earlier this week for investigation of one count of controlled-substance homicide.

Ann Lundwall, county deputy prosecuting attorney, said Friday she is contemplating filing the homicide charge.

“It is very likely an additional charge will be filed in the future,” Lundwall said.

A jury trial for Zavodny, who remained in jail on $250,000 bail, has been set for July 22, with a status hearing slated for June 14 at 9 a.m.

According to court documents, police were called to Zavodny’s home at about 8:16 a.m. Tuesday because neighbors said he was acting “bizarre and scary.”

Niehaus reportedly has used heroin while with Zavodny earlier that day and had a “physical reaction” to the drug, according to court documents, though Zavodny reportedly was able to revive him.

Police said Zavodny, who was left in the care of his grandmother at the house, told police that Niehaus was there but not that he needed medical attention.

Zavodny called police back at 1:48 p.m., and Niehaus was found dead, the document said.

Police searched the home and in Zavodny’s bedroom found electronic scales, used packaging and other evidence thought to be associated with selling heroin, according to police reports.

Anyone walking into any of the three courtrooms at the courthouse Friday afternoon had to pass through a metal detector and give up their cellphones.

Ron Sukert, jail superintendent, said deputies setting up the metal detector is not uncommon.

“But in this particular instance, we had some information that a threat had been made against Mr. Zavodny’s safety, so extra steps were put in place,” Sukert said.

Two people who had just left the courtroom where Zavodny appeared got into a brief fight in the courthouse parking lot, though it quickly stopped after deputies and police arrived.

No arrests by either deputies or police were made in connection with the fight.

Ricky Soiseth,19, a longtime friend of Niehaus’, confirmed Friday that the courtroom was filled with friends of Niehaus, many wearing red and black because those were Niehaus’ favorite colors, while others sported black T-shirts with his photo on them.

About 200 of those who knew Niehaus gathered for a candlelight vigil on Ediz Hook on Friday night.

“He was just a wonderful child,” said Miranda Cedar, Niehaus’ mother, outside the courthouse Friday. “Everybody loved him.”

On the day of Niehaus’ death, Cedar said, she was at home when a friend called her to ask if he was OK.

“‘I heard something about Maceo being dead,’ she told me,” Cedar said.

Cedar eventually found out where Niehaus was and that her son had indeed died.

“I went up to the house where he was found and sat there until they brought his body out,” Cedar said.

In the coming weeks, Cedar said, she wants to work with the state Department of Health to help friends of Niehaus’ grieve and to talk about the danger of illicit drugs.

“Hopefully, this situation will be something of an eye-opener for [anyone who knew Niehaus],” Cedar said.

For the near term, however, Cedar said she plans to put Niehaus to rest at a funeral Thursday and expects many of his friends to attend.

“If he only knew how many people’s lives he touched,” Cedar said.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 18. 2013 6:17PM
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