By WVUA 23 Web Writer Katherine Nein

A Birmingham man was found guilty for the death of a 20-year-old Pelham woman, Ashely Bailey, after giving her the opioid painkiller fentanyl.

The verdict was announced by the acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey and Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bret Hamilton.

Before the U.S. District Court Judge Madeline H. Haikala, 31-year-old Rodrigus Lee Pearson pleaded guilty to illegally distributing fentanyl and the resulting death in January 2016 in Jefferson County. Pearson also pleaded guilty for the distribution of heroin and the possession with the intent to distribute heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine. Also he was charged with being a felon illegally carrying an H&K .40-caliber pistol.

“Fentanyl kills in tiny doses – a few salt-sized grains. Most fentanyl on the streets is being made illegally in drug-dealer labs, and here and across the county overdose deaths soar as dealers add fentanyl to heroin to make it more potent,” Posey said. “In Jefferson County last year, the medical examiner’s office reported 106 overdose deaths caused by fentanyl and 100 by heroin, with 40 of those deaths caused by a combination of two drugs. The fentanyl deaths more than doubled from 49 in 2015. We are committed to our work with DEA and other law enforcement partners to aggressively prosecute those who traffic these deadly drugs.”

Bailey, a former University of Alabama student, was found in her home on Jefferson Avenue in Birmingham after rescue workers responded to a call of a suspected drug overdose. It was stated by witnesses that Bailey had been purchasing heroin from Pearson and that he likely replaced fentanyl for heroin which was found in her system.

“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Just a small amount, even a few grains can be fatal. It is important that the public is aware of the danger of this powerful and potentially lethal drugs,” Hamilton said. “DEA will continue to investigate and arrest distributors of this poison, especially when the distribution results in death. This conviction should put others who engage in the distribution of this deadly drug on notice: if you engage in this type of activity, you will face federal charges and a lengthy prison sentence.”

Pearson entered a plea agreement with the government that agreed to a 20-year sentence for the crime of distributing fentanyl that resulted in a death. The minimum sentence for this crime is 20 years to life in prison. Pearson is scheduled to be sentenced on July 12.

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