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Two face charges amid rash of overdoses in Duluth

Marcell Lee Gaines (left) and Jean Marie Anderson

Andrew Krueger

Forum News Service

Amid what authorities say is a rash of overdoses in Duluth in the past week attributed to heroin mixed with fentanyl, two people were charged Thursday with selling those drugs from a Lincoln Park apartment.

Marcell Lee Gaines, 46, and Jean Marie Anderson, 32, both of Duluth, each face a count of second-degree sale of a controlled substance in a public housing zone, a felony. The charge carries potential penalties of up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for a first conviction.

The recent overdoses — while not directly attributed to either suspect in court documents — were noted in a prosecutor's letter seeking bail of $125,000 for Gaines and $75,000 for Anderson.

"Over the past week, the Duluth Police Department has become aware of no less than five overdoses, one of which was nearly fatal when the individual who had overdosed on (opiates) could not be revived with Narcan and required additional medical treatment at the hospital," prosecutor Kristen Swanson wrote.

Duluth police reported that the recent overdoses "are believed to be the result of the use of heroin mixed with fentanyl." As of Wednesday, police said, there had been no fatalities in the string of overdoses.

Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic that officials say can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin.

According to information from police and a criminal complaint against Gaines and Anderson:

On Tuesday, authorities executed a search warrant at an apartment at 325 N. 20th Ave. W. in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Gaines and Anderson were inside the apartment at the time.

Gaines was found to have a "substantial quantity of cash" in his shorts, the complaint states, while in Anderson's bedroom officers found items including:

  • "a notepad of a drug ledger indicating pays and owes"
  • a mirror with several doses of a brown, powdery substance that appeared to be heroin
  • strips of gray plastic "with knotted bindles containing a tan powdery substance which later field-tested positive for the presence of fentanyl and heroin"
  • two digital scales

Gaines was the subject of the search warrant, and had reportedly been selling fentanyl from the apartment which is rented by Anderson, the complaint states. The apartment is a private residence but is located in a “public housing zone.” According to state statute, that includes any area within 300 feet or a city block — whichever is greater — from a public housing development. The apartment is less than a block from the Midtowne Manor property.

“The investigation into (Gaines) ... indicates that he has been selling fentanyl laced with heroin in the Twin Ports for some time, with no regard to potential penalty or public safety,” Swanson wrote in her bail recommendation letter for Gaines, noting previous drug convictions including a 2014 conviction for sale of controlled substance in St. Louis County.

Swanson also wrote that Anderson has past felony convictions and “a number of past failures to appear at her court hearings.”

Senior Judge Diane Alshouse set bail at $125,000 for Gaines and $50,000 for Anderson. They remained in the St. Louis County Jail as of Friday night, with their next court appearances set for May 10.

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