New Jersey boy, 12, dies of fentanyl overdose after cleaning uncle's drug paraphernalia, prosecutors say

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The boy was found unconscious on a school bus on Jan. 24 and died Feb. 1, according to New Jersey officials.

A New Jersey man has been arrested, accused of causing his 12-year-old nephew’s overdose death by forcing him to clean up drug paraphernalia that contained fentanyl. 

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Troy Nokes, 35, was hit with a slew of charges Monday, including first-degree aggravated manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child, in connection with the death of his nephew, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and Gloucester Township Police announced in a news release

The young boy, who was not identified, lived in the Blackwood, New Jersey, home where Nokes had allegedly manufactured fentanyl, the release said.

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The child found unresponsive on a school bus on Jan. 24 this year, the release said.

The boy was hospitalized and succumbed to his injuries on Feb. 1. His cause of death was ruled drug intoxication, specifically fentanyl, according to the City of Philadelphia Office of the Medical Examiner’s Office.

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Nokes allegedly manufactured the drug the weekend before the child’s death and allegedly directed the child to clean up paraphernalia that contained fentanyl, prosecutors said. Witnesses indicated the boy was not wearing gloves at the time, the release stated. 

In addition to manslaughter, Nokes was also charged with first-degree strict liability drug-induced death, first degree maintaining a controlled dangerous substance production facility, employing a juvenile in a drug distribution scheme, witness tampering, tampering with evidence, hindering apprehension and aggravated assault, among other charges, the release stated. 

A woman named Joanna Johnson was also charged in the case with tampering of evidence and hindering Nokes’ arrest, prosecutors said. NBC Philadelphia reported Johnson is Nokes’ girlfriend.

Gloucester Township Police Chief David Harkins told the station the grandmother and caretaker of the child is “devastated.”

“And she is losing a family member now who’s going into the criminal justice system to be prosecuted. But more importantly, she’s lost her 12-year-old grandson,” Harkins said.

Nokes and Johnson were arrested by the United States Marshals Service Regional Fugitive Task Force Thursday.

They are being held at the Camden County Correctional Facility pending a pretrial detention hearing. Lawyer information for the pair was not immediately available.

The investigation is ongoing. 

Medical experts have said that fentanyl exposure alone does not cause overdoses. 

Ryan Marino, medical director for toxicology and addiction at University Hospitals in Cleveland previously told NBC News that “While fentanyl remains a serious danger to anyone using substances, casual exposure alone is not, and victims of overdose should be treated without delay or hesitation because every second counts.”

The Drug Policy Alliance also said on Twitter, “it is not possible to overdose on fentanyl or fentanyl analogues through accidental skin contact or from close proximity alone. Gloves are enough.”

Police are asking with anyone with additional information in the case to contact local authorities or sent anonymous tips to ccpotips@ccprosecutor.org.

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