Addiction Front Lines: Case Closed? After brother died of overdose, woman wants justice
“I want the person who took my brother’s life to pay. He gave, he sold that to my brother. He should pay. My brother paid with his life.” – Brooke Shepard, Manchester
We continue our special Addiction Front Lines series with a plea from a grieving sister, whose little brother, 22-year-old Dylan Nicolas Shepard, died of a heroin-fentanyl overdose one year, one month and 22 days ago in Manchester. Brooke Shepard and her family desperately want the person who sold him the drugs off the streets. They say they know who it is, but the police say the case is closed. They asked us to find out why.
“His name is Dylan Nicolas Shepard…”
“He overdosed and passed away…”
“He was 22 when it happened.”
“I will never forget that day in my life.”
“He went out to a bar with a friend that he considered one of his best friends. He hadn’t seen him for almost a year.”
“When they left the club, they walked to a nearby apartment.”
“They both did their stuff and my brother went upstairs to the bathroom. And his friend –who he did it with – stayed downstairs.”
“The kid downstairs started breathing all messed up. His brother was there, his brother was shaking him, I guess.”
“The cops came, the ambulance, they went to him first. Meanwhile my brother was upstairs, passing away. By the time they got upstairs, it was too late.”
“I feel like there’s no justice. I feel like nothing’s been done. My brother deserves justice. He paid with his life. Now why can’t the other people pay?”
Brooke says the man who sold her brother the drugs confessed to her — in front of dozens of witnesses — just hours after Dylan died. According to the police report, that man told investigators he didn’t use or sell drugs.
“All I can picture is him saying it, that’s what he said exactly, "I did, I did.” As she wipes away the tears, she asks, “Why isn’t my word enough?”
Trial attorney Paul Monzione says the answer to that simple question is complicated.
“An admission is powerful evidence. It really is,” Monzione said. “And it’s admissible evidence. The problem is beyond the one witness — the sister of the victim — testifying that the alleged dealer admitted it to her, it’s a ‘he said, she said’ situation that doesn’t meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if there are other corroborating witnesses, objective people who were present, I would expect that a prosecutor would want to have those witnesses come to court and then let the jury decide.”
Monzione says another challenge is a lack of evidence.
“You don’t have witnesses that are available, evidence goes away and people leave. When someone overdoses, if people are present, you’re going to expect that they’re not going to stick around,” says Monzione.
I also asked Sergeant Chris Sanders with Manchester PD’s Street Crime Unit to weigh in.
“Death resulting cases are very difficult to prosecute,” Sanders said. “They have to prove if the drugs were bought from that person. And, that the drugs that they took from that person, are what caused the death. So, they didn’t mix the drug with something else, they didn’t already have something else in their system. They didn’t put something into the drug when they got home.”
Both Sanders and Monzione say there is still a way to get the drug dealers off the streets and bring the victim’s families some closure.
“Someone always knows what’s going on. Somebody is always in the circle of people that are committing the crime,” says Sanders.
“It’s not an easy thing to do," Monzione said. "This problem is not easy for anybody, but I think if it’s going to go away, these are the circumstances under which we’re asked to step up. And I think people have to take it very seriously and be willing to be witnesses, to testify to help law enforcement, to help prosecutors do the right thing by the victims."
“My brother is worth it," Brooke said. "He’s worth it. He deserves justice. My mother deserves justice for what happened to her son."
If you have any information on the overdose death of Dylan Shepard, call the Manchester Police Department’s Crimeline at 603-624-4040.
Stay tuned for more of our coverage from the Addiction Front Lines.