SMETHPORT — At the end of Wednesday, a McKean County jury that is hearing a case for Larry W. Shroyer was still listening to testimony from witnesses of the prosecution.
Shroyer, 48, of Bradford is accused in two cases: one for allegedly delivering the butyryl fentanyl/ heroin mix that caused the 2015 drug death of 25-year-old George Duke Jr., and a second for allegations he hid from police when he knew he was wanted in the first case. No testimony has been made on the allegations of fleeing.
This was Day 3 of the trial, which had been scheduled for three days. The trial will begin a fourth day today.
Day 3 brought a variety of professionals, law enforcement and acquaintances of Shroyer to the stand.
Pharmacist Mike Dolan, co-owner of Ott & McHenry Pharmacy in Bradford, was first on the stand. He talked about two prescriptions Duke was having filled there, doxepin and trazodone.
Both of those were among the substances found in Duke’s system at the time of his death, according to Dr. Laura Labay, a forensic toxicologist with National Medical Services (NMS Labs). Labay testified after Dolan.
The amounts in Duke’s system of doxepin and trazodone — both antidepressants — were consistent with normal use, as were the amounts of nicotine and ibuprofen. She also indicated that atenolol, a beta blocker, was detected, but it was a small amount.
However, testing also detected butyryl fentanyl, as well as two substances that could indicate heroin use: morphine free, which is a metabolite of heroin, and quinine, which is a common cutting agent in heroin.
Labay said the butyryl fentanyl and morphine found in Duke’s blood were what jumped out at her as the drugs that were significant in Duke’s death.
Gary Reid — an acquaintance of Shroyer and brother to Rachel Reid, who was allegedly selling heroin to Shroyer. Gary Reid was sometimes at the 87 ½ High St., Bradford, apartment where Rachel Reid, James Luper and others were maintaining a drug operation.
Luper was alleging bringing drugs from out of town that were sold from the apartment.
Not once did Gary Reid see Duke in the house buying drugs, but on at least three occasions he saw Duke waiting in a vehicle while Shroyer went up to the house. He never saw anyone give Duke drugs, he said.
After Duke’s death, Reid had a conversation with Shroyer while wearing a recording device from police.
That recording was played for the jury. In it, Shroyer repeatedly said things such as, “Don’t say nothing,” and requested that Gary Reid tell Rachel Reid not to say anything to police.
At one point, Shroyer “said he didn’t put a needle in Georgie’s arm,” Gary Reid related.
Defense attorney John Thomas asked Reid if he told Bradford City Police Chief Chris Lucco that Shroyer was not a drug dealer; Reid said yes.
District Attorney Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer later had Reid clarify that statement, and he explained that he meant that Shroyer was not a drug dealer the same way that Luper was a drug dealer. Rather, Shroyer was a “middle man.”
Reid said no one else sold drugs to Duke because it was commonly understood that Duke was Shroyer’s “lick” — or customer.
Rachel Reid took the stand after her brother. Like others who testified, she described the apartment where she lived as one where people went to buy heroin and crack cocaine.
Shroyer, she said, was a good customer and would come two or three times a day to purchase a bundle — or 10 stamp bags — of heroin. Shroyer was her “lick.”
At one point, Shaffer asked Reid, “Did you sell butyryl fentanyl to Larry Shroyer on Nov. 12, 2015?” which was the day before Duke was found dead.
“Yes,” Reid replied.
Reid knew the heroin they were selling was strong because she overdosed on it twice. She said that if there hadn’t been people around to revive her, she would be dead.
While the prosecution had not rested its case by the end of Wednesday, the jury heard from one defense witness: Dr. Lawrence Guzzardi, an emergency physician and medical toxicologist.
Guzzardi disagreed with Labay’s testimony, saying, “I personally do not believe butyryl fentanyl and morphine were a significant factor in the death of Mr. George Duke.”
Guzzardi said he personally believes Duke died of cardiac arrhythmia caused by a combination of the two antidepressants, their metabolites and the beta blocker.
Guzzardi said that if Duke was taking the trazodone as prescribed, “The level is substantially higher than you would expect.” He felt the same about the level of doxepin. However, he later explained that just because he would expect the levels to be lower, it did not necessarily indicate that Duke took too much of either.
Shaffer at one point during their discussion said that Duke had 140 nanograms of doxepin per milliliter of blood — well below the range of 700 to 29,000 nanograms per milliliter of blood found in cases of doxepin fatalities.
Guzzardi said that range is only for doxepin alone, not a combination of drugs.
Labay was brought back to the stand after Guzzardi gave his testimony.
According to Labay, if Duke were to suffer adverse effects from the combination of prescription medication, she would expect it to happen when he first started taking it. Duke had been taking his prescriptions for months or longer.
She talked about how tolerance works. If someone is taking medication for awhile, that person builds a tolerance to it, such as he would have for his prescription medications.
However, that person loses tolerance for a drug if they stop taking it — such as when Duke was in rehab into the summer of 2015.
Labay reiterated that butyryl fentanyl was the suspect drug in Duke’s death.
Crystal Harris testified about a brief phone conversation she had with Shroyer after Duke died.
“He said he thought he was helping a friend,” Harris said. Shroyer told her that if he had known how it would turn out, he wouldn’t have helped Duke.
Harris also had an interaction with Duke at Walmart a couple of weeks before his death. He asked her if she knew where he could find drugs.
Dr. Paul Kirsh, who practices internal medicine and cardiology in Bradford, testified, too. Duke was a patient of his.
According to Kirsh, Duke came to see him in July 2015 after not going to his office for several years. Duke’s complaint at the time was that he had insomnia, and he also needed some prescriptions refilled.
Kirsh reported on Duke’s general health at that time, saying he felt Duke was healthy.
Next on the stand was Lucco, who provided more details about the death investigation.
When he arrived at Duke’s home on Nov. 13, 2015, Lucco found Duke’s cell phone to see when his last contact was.
Lucco had Duke’s phone on his desk at his office later that day, when it started ringing. Shroyer was on the other end. Lucco asked Shroyer why he was calling, and he heard the police were at Duke’s house and he wanted to see if he was OK.
“Georgie was best friends with his son, Larry Jr., and he was trying to keep Duke clean and sober,” Lucco said, relating Shroyer’s answer.
Duke’s last phone contact was to Shroyer, too, which happened at 4:21 p.m. Nov. 12. In fact, 40 of the 47 phone communications that Duke had in November 2015 were with Shroyer. In contrast, Duke had 65 phone communications in October 2015, and none of them were with Shroyer.
Lucco was still showing the jury the evidence police collected at the scene of Duke’s death when testimony ended for the day.
Testimony will continue at 8:30 a.m. today.