Quad City drug dealers could face homicide charges

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For the first time in Rock Island County, a man faces homicide charges for delivering a lethal dose of drugs. Prosecutors hope the aggressive penalties will help curb a growing heroin problem in the Quad Cities.

On Tuesday, March 11, 2014, police arrested 25-year-old Jamil Steward at his East Moline home. They say he delivered a deadly dose of heroin to Michael Reid, who was found dead in his apartment on First Avenue in Silvis on October 21, 2013.

Steward was charged with drug-induced homicide.

"It's the first time that it has been filed in Rock Island County," said Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee.

McGehee said the law to punish drug dealers has actually been on the books since 1989, but has been largely unused in the Quad City area.

"You have to have really strong evidence to show that the drug that was provided is the drug that actually caused the death of this person," said McGehee.

Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reported that deaths from heroin overdoses have increased by 45 percent from 2006 to 2010. Holder called the rise "an urgent public health crisis."

That trend is also present in the Quad Cities.

"We are seeing a higher increase in people coming into our services who are in their early to mid-twenties, and they are abusing heroin," said Heather Olson, Vice President of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Services.

Olson says heroin has likely become popular because it is cheaper than prescription drugs, and without involving doctors, there is less risk of being caught.

Part of the national crackdown on heroin, though, involves tougher penalties for those who supply the drug.

"This is something that this community, and myself, is very concerned about as well... that people are using drugs, that people are supplying those drugs, and it's causing a lot of harm to a lot of people," said McGehee.

Steward is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, March 18. If convicted, he could face up to 60 years in prison.