Man faces new charge in heroin death

Article subtitle: 
Christopher Wood's case moves to federal court, with trial to begin in September
Article author: 
Emily Gillespie
Article publisher: 
The Statesman
Article date: 
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Article category: 
Article Body: 

The case against a Salem man accused of delivering heroin to a 21-year-old Keizer woman that resulted in her death has moved from county court to federal court.

Christopher Wood, 19, is alleged to have given heroin to Laurin Ann Putnam on April 16, according to court records.

Wood faces the new charge of distribution of heroin resulting in a death, which carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and up to a $10 million fine. The law, known as the Len Bias law, was passed in 1988 after the cocaine overdose and death of basketball player Len Bias.

Wood joins six others who face federal charges in connection with the case.

Court documents detail how investigators with the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as other agencies around the state, learned of each level in the drug trade and eventually arrested what appears to be the highest level of dealer in the drug organization, Sergio Quezada-Lopez.

Lopez, 33, was distributing heroin and cocaine to customers in Oregon and Washington on a regular basis in an operation that “likely yielded a yearly gross profit of over one hundred thousand dollars,” according to court records.

In the 96 hours after Putnam’s death, investigators made arrests and conducted searches in Washington, Multnomah and Marion counties as well as Vancouver, Wash., and seized more than four pounds of heroin, an undisclosed amount of methamphetamine and cocaine, two guns and more that $20,000 in cash, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Law enforcement also arrested Braulio Acosta Mendoza, 34, Jose Romo Gonzalez, 22, Jose Aldan Soto, 30, and Julian Hernandez Castillo, 31, for conspiracy that resulted in death. All five men are residents of Mexico, the attorney’s office said, and are being held with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.

Similar to Wood, Joseph Rubino, 20, of Salem was charged in Marion County court before that case was dismissed and he was indicted on federal charges.

In 2011, there were 143 heroin-related deaths, a 59 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office.

U.S. attorney Amanda Marshall said in a release that “heroin has saturated our state,” and that “this has to stop.”