A Fairfax County man has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the cocaine-induced death of another man, marking what may be the first time such a case will be prosecuted in Northern Virginia.
Daniel Mark Strohkirch, 26, was arrested Monday night at his home in the 9100 block of Richmond Highway in Fort Belvoir, a few hours after he was indicted by a grand jury, Prince William County police said. Strohkirch was released on his own recognizance yesterday after a brief hearing before a judge.
Strohkirch is charged in the death of Fred Leon Green, 37, of Stafford County, who died of cocaine poisoning July 19, 1988. Green was found dead in a house in Prince William, a police source said. Strohkirch also is charged with one count of distributing cocaine, which he allegedly sold to Green. If convicted of both charges, Strohkirch faces a maximum of 60 years in prison.
Law enforcement officials said they believe no other drug-sale cases have involved prosecution for murder in Northern Virginia. The Chesterfield County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office successfully prosecuted two cases in 1984 and 1990, said James Willet, an assistant Prince William commonwealth's attorney.
Court officials said yesterday they could not remember any successful prosecutions for drug overdose murder in the Washington area.
"It is our theory that the defendant distributed the cocaine which caused the victim's death," Willett said. "He is capable of being prosecuted because of Virginia law which makes it murder when someone dies in commission of a felony."
The country's most publicized case of similar charges was the 1986 conviction in Los Angeles of Cathy Evelyn Smith, who pleaded no contest on a charge of involuntary manslaughter for furnishing and administering dangerous drugs to comedian John Belushi. Smith was sentenced to three years.
"It is an unusual sort of charge even though it has been brought before the courts and has been upheld by the courts," said Bert Rohr, spokesman for Virginia State Attorney General's Office.
Prince William police spokeswoman Kim D. Chinn said the investigation into Green's death has been underway since 1988, but evidence was received only recently to allow prosecutors to take the case to a grand jury. Police officials refused to discuss details of the case.
Willett said Prince William officials want to send a message that they will prosecute drug offenders to the fullest extent of the law.
"We want to make it quite clear that if you distribute cocaine in Prince William County and someone dies, you will face prosecution," he said. Referring to the 1986 death of the Maryland basketball star, he said, "You don't have to go any further than the Len Bias case to know this is happening more frequently, people dying of drug overdoses. We will visit the responsibility on the distributors."Staff writer Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.