Mary Gibbs, 46, was indicted this week by a Harlan County Grand Jury after Kentucky State Police trooper Jim T. Whitaker conducted an investigation into the death of Steve Harris Senters III, 24. Gibbs was charged with wanton murder and tampering with physical evidence.
Harlan County Coroner Philip Bianchi said he was called to Harlan ARH Hospital on Feb. 25, where it appeared that Senters had died of an overdose.
Bianchi said a test performed on Senters indicated high levels of fentanyl in his system.
Whitaker conducted an investigation at Gibbs’ residence, where Senters had allegedly overdosed.
According to the indictment, Gibbs manifested extreme indifference to human life by wantonly placing a morphine patch on Senters’ back with duct tape, causing his death.
It is also alleged that Gibbs concealed evidence which she believed was about to be produced or used in an official proceeding by flushing a morphine patch that she had placed on Senters.
First synthesized in Belgium in the late 1950s, fentanyl, with an analgesic potency of about 80 times that of morphine, was introduced into medical practice in the 1960s. Today, fentanyls are extensively used for anesthesia and analgesia. Fentanyl is also used for chronic pain management, for opiate-tolerant individuals and is effective in treating breakthrough pain in cancer patients.
The DEA has said the distribution of illicitly manufactured fentanyl has caused an unprecedented outbreak of hundreds of fentanyl-related overdoses in the United States in recent months. As of April, at least 972 confirmed fentanyl-related deaths have been reported, and 162 suspected fentanyl-related deaths, mostly in Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, were initially reported to the DEA.
Bianchi said he has investigated at least four or five overdoses related to fentanyl.
Deputy Silas Whitehead arrested Gibbs on the indictment warrant Thursday. She was lodged in the Harlan County Detention Center with bond set at $500,000.