The sheriff’s office announced Tuesday that a grand jury has returned the two indictments against Joseph Sylvester O’Connor, 40, of Maryville in connection to the death of 28-year-old Taylor Morgan, 28, who died of an overdose on September 2022.
Investigators with the 5th Judicial Drug Task Force investigators determined that O’Connor provided Morgan with the fentanyl and Acetylfentanyl that led to his death, the release said.
O’Connor is also being charged with possession of a schedule I controlled substance, two counts of delivery of a schedule I controlled substance, and multiple counts of failure to appear in court on various drug and weapons charges. The sheriff’s office added that he is being held on bonds totaling $1.153 million pending hearings in the Blount County General Sessions and Circuit courts on August 13.
According to BCSO, this is the first time a Blount County Grand Jury has successfully indicted a person under the law that allows someone to be charged with second degree murder if a victim dies as the result of unlawful distribution of any schedule I or II drug where the drug causes the death of the user. The law was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2018.
“I am grateful for these indictments,” Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong said. “Though Mr. Morgan’s death is tragic, I concur with the Blount County Grand Jury in their decision to return true bills for second degree murder against Mr. O’Connor. Mr. Morgan’s death was not in vain, and I hope that those who are pushing these lethal opioids will continue to be held accountable when an overdose death occurs. Fentanyl and heroin have not only ruined a lot of lives, but it has also changed the lives of many families forever. It’s time we as a community hold those individuals accountable who are responsible for these deaths.”
Law enforcement in Blount County has worked 146 overdose cases resulting in 31 deaths in 2023, BCSO said. Last year, there were 52 overdose deaths in 261 reported overdoses, the release added.