Four convicted in overdose death investigation

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Four were recently convicted in the Gallia Court of Common Pleas in connection with an investigation into the death of Brian Scott Caldwell after his body was discovered in an area around the Wayne National Forest during summer of last year.

According to information provided by the Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren, Caldwell met with a mutual acquaintance of Fred Wray, 63, in the Crown City area to purchase opioids.

“He goes to Wray’s home at Layne Road in Crown City. That’s right off of Bladen (Road),” said Holdren. “He gives money to an individual by the name of Rickie Whitt. Whitt then provides the money to Wray and Wray gets the drugs. Rickie leaves. Thereafter, Caldwell takes the drugs and he expires there in Wray’s driveway. Fred is there with another individual by the name of Dale Finley. He’s been convicted and another individual by then name of John Addis. He’s been convicted.”

Holdren said that Wray persuaded the others to put Caldwell in the backseat of Caldwell’s vehicle. Finley would drive and Addis would follow Wray. The three go onto Bladen Road and then out towards Ohio 218 and drive to the Rocky Fork Creek area. Wray reportedly instructed Finley to leave Caldwell and his vehicle around the Wayne National Forest.

Finley, 45, of Crown City, and Addis, 47, of Crown City, were both convicted of the third-degree felonies of tampering with evidence and the fifth-degree felonies of abuse of a corpse. Wray was also convicted of the same crimes in addition to the second-degree felony of corrupting another with drugs with the result of serious bodily harm. Rickie Whitt, Jr., 33, of Crown City, was convicted of aggravated trafficking.

“We need to start educating and having the discussion that even though somebody does a bad thing by buying drugs, we have to have those selling held accountable,” said Holdren. “(Assistant Gallia Prosecutor Jeremy Fisher) and I have been to some trainings and it’s a tough sell to a jury to say you’ve got a guy who willingly paid money to get drugs, he knew the risks and that people die every day of it, that kind of thing to (then) get 12 people to say, despite that, we’re going to hold the seller accountable…”

Reportedly, the drugs provided were “pure fentanyl” said prosecution, according to their toxicology reports. Caldwell was discovered around July 9, 2018 and reportedly died of overdose.

The case echoes similar other narratives where bodies are abandoned around Ohio after an individual overdoses. Holdren said law enforcement across the state is pushing to hold drug traffickers accountable on similar corrupting charges where possible.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright