SHARP COUNTY, Ark – Deputies with the Izard County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday announced that a Cave City man is being charged with manslaughter after the 2021 death of an 18-year-old woman.

Authorities said 21-year-old LaShaun Terrell Starbuck of Cave City is charged with manslaughter, a Class C felony.

Investigators claimed Starbuck brought the victim, identified as Alyssa Hale, to the White River Medical Center emergency room on October 28, 2021. Deputies noted in the statement that Hale was deceased

Staff at the medical center called the Sharp County Sheriff’s Office and an investigation was initiated. Investigators spoke with Starbuck, who told them Hale had been “dumped” in the entryway to his Cave City home. The statement released Tuesday noted that, “after getting permission to look through Starbuck’s phone that statement was quickly debunked.”

Investigators then requested assistance from the 16th Judicial District Drug Task Force due to Hale’s death being due to her consumption of what they described as “pressed pills.”

Drug Task Force investigators with the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program interviewed people who were with Hale the night she died, with the authorities saying they “all said she appeared normal when she was taken to Starbuck’s home.”

The investigators searched Starbuck’s phone and social media, determining he was “regularly involved in the sale and distribution of pills.”

While being interviewed, the investigators said Starbuck admitted that he had taken drugs with Hale the night before her death. The investigators said a drug test taken by Starbuck came back positive for fentanyl.

The Arkansas Medical Examiner listed fentanyl toxicity as Hale’s cause of death. An affidavit in the case claims that, “in the early morning hours of October 28, 2021, Alyssa Hale was given pills by Starbuck that she believed to be Percocet but were fentanyl made to look like Percocet.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration has raised increasing alarm about counterfeit pills, pills designed to look like over-the-counter medications, usually as a narcotic, but made with fentanyl, a very powerful pain killer. The pills are generally made in illicit labs overseas and smuggled into the United States.  

Two grams of fentanyl is considered lethal, according to the DEA.

Narcan has proven to be a very effective intervention for someone undergoing an overdose response to narcotics consumption. The University of Arkansas Narcansas site includes information on how to use a Narcan inhaler to help someone who appears to be undergoing an overdose, typified by confusion, slow breathing and extreme sleepiness.

A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a steady increase in fentanyl since 2018. In 2018, Region 6, which includes Arkansas, along with Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas by CDC stats, had 690 fentanyl deaths. This rose to 2,334 deaths in 2020, the last year for which statistics are available.