No bail for suspect in OD death
Lowell, Mass., man allegedly sold deadly fentanyl to Pelham man
NASHUA – A Superior Court judge Wednesday ordered William Luna, who is accused of selling fentanyl to a Pelham man who overdosed and died last summer, held in jail without bail as his case proceeds in Hillsborough County Superior Court South.
Although Luna, 44, most recently of 227 Ludlum St. in Lowell, Mass., waived formal arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty, Judge Amy Ignatius gave the go-ahead for a combination bail and evidentiary hearing in order to reach her ruling on Luna’s bail.
Luna is among a handful of defendants to be charged with sale or distribution of a controlled drug – death resulting, a special-level felony that is punishable by up to life in prison.
The charge alleges that Luna sold a gram of fentanyl to Nicholas Wells, 25, late the night of June 19 outside the Pelham home Wells shares with his parents, siblings and grandmother.
Pelham Police Officer Bruce Vieira, who testified at the evidentiary hearing, said he and other officers were called to the home around 6:30 a.m. June 20 for a report of an unconscious man who wasn’t breathing.
Vieira said he was met by family members who directed him to the man, later identified as Wells, who was lying on the ground just outside a basement door.
Vieira said he found no pulse and began CPR until medical personnel arrived. Wells was transported to Lowell General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Vieira testified.
The charge is one of six drug-related offenses currently pending against Luna, according to Assistant Attorney General Jesse O’Neill, who represented the state at Wednesday’s hearing.
A grand jury indicted Luna in September on four of the charges – three counts of possession of a controlled drug with intent to sell or dispense, and one count of possession of a controlled drug – all of which are subsequent offenses, according to the documents.
He was then indicted in October on the sale of fentanyl with death resulting offense, along with one count of sale of a controlled drug, subsequent offense.
Until Wednesday, Luna had been held in Valley Street Jail in Manchester on $75,000 cash only bail, which one of his lawyers, Attorney Liza Mone, said is high enough to have kept Luna in jail.
“His family cannot post it,” she said of the bail, noting that revoking Luna’s bail would merely change his status and prevent him from being on the jail’s “work unit.”
Gesturing toward the gallery, where nearly 20 people representing three generations were gathered, Mone told the court that they are members of Luna’s family “who came here in droves to support him.”
“Mr. Luna is not a predator. He’s an addict,” Mone continued. “He’d been living in Lowell, but had been working for his uncle in Pelham.
“He has ties to the community,” she added.
On the other side of the gallery, one woman, apparently there on behalf of Wells, sat with a state victim’s advocate for the nearly two-hour hearing.
Vieira, a member of the Hillsborough County Street Crime Drug Task Force, said the case is the third overdose-death case he’s worked. Under questioning by O’Neill, Vieira said he and other officers launched an investigation into Wells’s death later that day.
They found substances – some in a soda can, some in a needle, on a table in Wells’s bedroom – and that they tested positive for fentanyl, he said.
Vieira also said there was a cell phone in Wells’s hand when they found him. From it they copied numerous text messages that they determined were exchanged by Wells and Luna in the previous two weeks.
The lawyers focused mainly on the series of exchanges in the hours leading up to Wells’s death. O’Neill, apparently seeking to paint Luna as an experienced dealer, told the court that it was Luna who initiated the vast majority of the texts, and further, that Luna “bragged about buying (drugs) in bulk” and had asked Wells to refer potential buyers to him, O’Neill said.
But Mone took a different view of the text streams, asking Vieira in cross-examination about the transcripts of the messages.
“Each conversation is initiated by Mr. Wells, correct?” she asked. “That’s fair to say,” Vieira responded.
Vieira also described during his testimony how police, within 24 hours of Wells’s death, were able to track down and arrest Luna.
An officer, using Wells’s phone, text-messaged Luna, using street-slang to inquire about buying drugs, Vieira said. Luna, thinking he was communicating with Wells – he didn’t yet know that Wells had died – agreed to a meeting at the Family Dollar store on Bridge Street in Pelham.
Vieira said undercover officers arrived early and waited for Luna. He said when Luna drove up in a pickup truck, Vieira recognized him from a social media profile photo police had.
They met in aisle 8. “I asked him if his name is William Luna; he said yes,” Vieira said. “I placed him under arrest.”
Police found three bags containing substances in Luna’s pocket, Vieira said. Two tested positive for fentanyl, one for cocaine, he added.
Ahead of Ignatius’s ruling, the attorneys agreed to continue Luna’s $75,000 cash only bail on the other five charges.
In handing down her order that Luna be held without bail, Ignatius said she agreed with O’Neill that the state presented sufficient “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant should be held without bail.
Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, email@example.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.