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'Prolific' drug dealer charged, wanted in overdose death of Hopkins man

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH
  • Star Tribune
  • February 18, 2013 - 11:48 PM

 

The hunt is on for a suspected drug dealer charged with supplying the heroin that killed a Hopkins husband and father nearly a year ago.

Devon McFerrin, 31, of Minneapolis, was charged last week in Hennepin County District Court with third-degree murder, but “his current location is unknown,” police said in a statement.

While authorities have not named the victim, the family identified him Monday as Timothy C. St. John, 31, a husband and father of four who was a chef at various restaurants in the Twin Cities area. St. John overdosed and died on Feb. 20, 2012, at his apartment on Lake Street NE. in Hopkins.

St. John had been “trying to get his addiction under control” for about two years through Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, a Twin Cities program for addictions, said his father, Randall St. John of Kingsford, Mich., in that state’s Upper Peninsula.

Tim St. John was raised in Kingsford and acquired a love of playing drums, often playing in church in Michigan and in the Twin Cities.

He learned his culinary skills “along the way and was self-taught” on the job, his father said.

Tim St. John’s children with his wife, Chelsea, are now ages 6, 8, 10 and 11. He also was a stepfather to a woman who is now 19.

Randall St. John said police “have been doing a terrific job,” even though it has been a year since his son’s death and the suspect remains a fugitive.

“I hope it’s just a matter of time before a girlfriend of someone gives him up,” the father added.

Hopkins Police Sgt. Michael Glassberg said Monday that the charge took this long since St. John died because “it takes time to develop the case, the thoroughness of the investigation” and there was DNA evidence for the lab to process before prosecutors could begin their review of the evidence.

Glassberg added that the department was “proud of the detective work” by Sgt. Erik Husevold that led to the charge.

According to the criminal complaint, filed last week:

The person notifying authorities of the death said St. John ingested heroin a few hours earlier that was bought at the Pennwood Market at Penn and Glenwood avenues in north Minneapolis from a dealer named “Church.”

County investigators who searched the Hopkins apartment found syringes, metal spoons, glass pipes, baggies and trace amounts of heroin and methamphetamine. Also found was a baggie on St. John containing heroin.

The medical examiner’s office determined that St. John accidentally overdosed on heroin.

Video surveillance of the market on the night of St. John’s death showed him approach a vehicle and carry out “a hand-to-hand transaction” with a person in the front passenger seat.

The criminal complaint said Husevold recognized this as a drug deal and traced the vehicle to McFerrin’s girlfriend.

DNA on baggies found on St. John’s body matched McFerrin’s profile, according to a county crime lab analysis.

McFerrin told police that he was the front passenger in the video surveillance and that his nickname is “Church.” Police say “Church” is known as a “prolific heroin dealer,” having supplied St. John with the drug previously, as well as having other customers.

McFerrin’s criminal history in Minnesota includes convictions for domestic assault, illegal weapons possession and drunken driving.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call 911. Police have yet to release a detailed description of McFerrin or a booking photograph from his previous encounters with the law.

Carol Falkowski, the state’s former drug czar who now runs her own consulting company, said that, broadly, Minnesota has “never had so many charges” connected to heroin overdoses.

“We continue to see these consequences related to heroin addiction in the Twin Cities as well as everywhere in the state,” Falkowski said.

The heroin in the Twin Cities is still considered among the highest in purity and lowest cost in the country, she added.

 

Star Tribune staff writer Paul Levy contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482• @walshpj

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