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Tulsa County DA's Office Files Murder Charge in Overdose Death

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Tulsa Police
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The Tulsa County District Attorney charges an alleged drug dealer with first-degree murder for his customer’s overdose death.

Jillian Searle’s mother found her unconscious from a heroin overdose in their home March 21. Searle, 19, later died.

Detectives say 29-year-old Taylor Rogers admitted to selling her a gram of heroin around 24 hours earlier and believed the drug killed her. Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said detectives built a good template with the case, which has led to a first-degree murder charge against Rogers.

"We’re certainly going to pursue others where we have that kind of evidence. We’re going to go the same route, and I think it’ll help reduce the number of people who are willing to take up that endeavor for a lifestyle," Jordan said.

This may be the first instance in Tulsa County of a first-degree murder charge against an alleged drug dealer for an overdose death. First Assistant District Attorney Erik Grayless said up to now, drug dealers have been treated as just drug dealers.

"But, if your drugs produce the death of another, we’re not going to call you a drug dealer anymore. We’re going to call you a murderer because that’s what you are and that’s what you did," Grayless said.

Oklahoma law says first-degree murder has been committed if someone dies as the result of unlawful distributing of controlled substances or trafficking illegal drugs.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said he hopes the murder charge sends a message and brings Searle’s family some relief.

"She had her entire life to look forward to, and, as so many kids do, she made a bad decision. And, tragically, it was a final decision. Unlike most kids, she’ll never be able to make up for it," Hunter said.

Jordan credits Hunter’s Safe Oklahoma Grant to TPD with putting more officers on the street to track down drug dealers.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.