Manslaughter charge in Rocky Fork overdose case

Howard accused of selling drugs that claimed man’s life

By David Wright - [email protected]



A man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and other felonies for allegedly selling a Highland County man the drugs that claimed his life, then moving the body to a parked car in the Rocky Fork Lake area.

Ervin David Howard, 58, listed as homeless, was arrested Thursday morning, according to jail records. He was indicted May 7 for involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony; corrupting another with drugs, a second-degree felony; tampering with evidence, a third degree felony; and abuse of a corpse and trafficking in heroin, both fifth-degree felonies.

The indictment has been sealed since then, but it was unsealed Thursday when Howard was arraigned, according to court records.

Howard is accused of selling heroin to John Peacock, a 41-year-old Hillsboro man who died from a drug overdose on Jan. 18. The indictment alleges that Howard caused Peacock’s death by selling him the heroin.

According to the Highland County coroner, toxicology results confirmed Peacock died from a fentanyl overdose and large amounts of alcohol. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid commonly added to heroin.

The indictment said Howard then moved Peacock’s body into a car at a general store near Rocky Fork Lake, resulting in the tampering and corpse abuse charges.

Billy Joe Stone, 50, of the Rocky Fork Lake area, is also accused of moving Peacock’s body to the car. He was indicted May 7 with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He was arrested May 9.

Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins said she does not anticipate further arrests in the case.

This is not the first time Collins has prosecuted someone for allegedly causing another person’s death by drug overdose.

Tracey O’Cull, 42, Hillsboro, was found guilty of corrupting another with drugs on May 12, 2017, although the jury found her not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

O’Cull, who prosecutors said caused the death of Benjamin Hahn by selling him fentanyl, was sentenced to eight years in prison. She is currently incarcerated at Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

As previously reported, Peacock’s body was found by an employee of the store on the morning of Jan. 19. Peacock’s body was partially undressed, and investigators said at the time that the condition of the body was not consistent with the environment in which it was found.

Highland County Coroner Dr. Jeff Beery called it a “staged scene.”

Dr. Jim McKown, one of Beery’s investigators, said while there were no needle punctures on Peacock’s body, the case was ruled at the time as a probable drug overdose.

A syringe was found about 10 feet from the car, but there was nothing to indicate whether or not it was used by Peacock, McKown said previously.

There was no indication of trauma on the body, McKown said.

Beery said it is not unusual for overdose deaths to be reported well after other drug users have cleaned up the scene so as not to incriminate themselves. But, the coroner said, “usually, they’re not so nefarious as to move the body.”

“If they load them up and haul them somewhere else and leave them, that really creates a lot of worry,” he said.

Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.

Howard accused of selling drugs that claimed man’s life

By David Wright

[email protected]