Just days after the death of Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, the ugly consequences of heroin addiction have hit even closer to home.
This time, two people died, both of them inmates at Attica Correctional Facility.
The deaths occurred in December, and a husband and wife, one of them an Attica inmate, are being charged in connection with the fatal drug overdoses at the state prison.
“The spread of heroin abuse has ironically even reached a place where we send drug dealers for their crimes – jail,” Michelle Spahn, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Buffalo, said at a news conference Wednesday.
Elizabeth Camue-Martinez, 33, of Buffalo, and Andres Martinez, 28, the Attica inmate, are accused of smuggling heroin and marijuana into the prison.
Investigators say the defendants’ drug trafficking is linked to two Attica inmates who died of apparent drug overdoses on the same day in early December.
“They both died on the same night,” said Wyoming County District Attorney Donald G. O’Geen. “They both died within hours of each other, and they both died in the same block.”
Authorities believe the two inmates – Saleem Ali, 51, and Glendon Jackson, 25 – thought they were taking heroin when, in fact, the drug was pure fentanyl.
Prosecutors said Martinez and Camue-Martinez were indicted by a grand jury on charges of distributing heroin and marijuana, but additional charges connecting them to the fatal overdoses are possible.
“Not yet,” U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said when asked if the couple had been charged with causing the deaths. “That investigation is ongoing.”
Hochul declined to talk about the evidence linking the two defendants to the overdoses but indicated there is a connection.
If the couple are charged and convicted, they would face a maximum of life in prison.
Hochul used his news conference to alert the community again to the growing number of fatal overdoses caused by heroin, fentanyl and a mixture of the two.
His warning also came just days after Hoffman, a Rochester native and Academy Award winner, died of an overdose of either heroin or fentanyl-laced heroin.
Appearing with Hochul were the mother and father of a young Western New York woman who won her long battle with heroin addiction.
Their message was simple: Keep an eye out for the signs of drug addiction and, when you see them, take swift action.
“It’s called tough love," said the father, who appeared on the condition he and his wife not be identified.
He said their daughter began using heroin when she was about 18 as a cheaper alternative to the prescription pills she had been abusing.
They noticed things missing from their house and, at the advice of a friend in law enforcement, had their daughter arrested.
Now in her 20s, she has been clean for four years, the father said.
“It’s a suburban problem, an urban problem and a rural problem,” Howard K. Hitzel, president of Lake Shore Behavioral Health, a mental health and substance abuse center, said of the growing number of heroin and heroin-fentanyl overdoses.
Hitzel said the abuse often starts with prescription painkillers. He said prevention is the best weapon in battling addiction.
Spahn, of the Buffalo DEA, said that heroin overdoses have increased 45 percent nationwide and that fentanyl-laced heroin has proved to be especially dangerous.
Hochul also announced two other heroin-related arrests.
Jerome J. Tallington, 25, of Buffalo, was indicted on charges of distributing the drug, and Davon Banks, 35, of Buffalo, was charged in a separate case with distributing a mixture that contained fentanyl.