Crime

Durham man charged with selling heroin after woman, unborn child died from overdose

Mother says drug dealer should face consequence for her son’s death

Christie Barker-Cummings is the mother of Kevin Cummings who was found from an overdose three days after his 18th birthday. Hillsborough police arrested Nathan Windham, 43, and charged with second-degree murder for selling the teen heroin.
Up Next
Christie Barker-Cummings is the mother of Kevin Cummings who was found from an overdose three days after his 18th birthday. Hillsborough police arrested Nathan Windham, 43, and charged with second-degree murder for selling the teen heroin.

A Durham man was charged with felony drug crimes and could face additional charges after a 41-year-old woman and her unborn child were found dead from a heroin overdose.

On Aug. 9, Lara Cera, who was eight to nine months pregnant, was found inside a home on Tomahawk Drive, according to a recently released search warrant.

“Evidence on the scene suggested that the death of Ms. Cera and her unborn child was the result of heroin overdose,” Durham County Sheriff’s Office Detective D.C. Bermel wrote, seeking access to the phone of the person accused of selling drugs to Cera’s boyfriend.

Cera’s boyfriend indicated he had bought heroin for the couple that day at a gas station on Roxboro Road. An investigation led to a confidential informant purchasing eight bags of heroin from Michael Hopkins around 9:30 a.m. Aug. 15.

After the sale, Hopkins entered a home on Argonne Drive.

At noon, a search warrant was executed and deputies found 11 grams of heroin, 15 grams of marijuana and the cell phone Bermel wanted.

Hopkins was charged with trafficking opium or heroin, possession with intent to manufacture, sell or distribute heroin, and maintaining a dwelling for the use, storage and sale of a controlled substance, all felonies. He was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

He was released from the Durham County jail Aug. 21 on $50,000 bail.

Passionate about animals

The News & Observer left a message at a number believed to be that of Cera’s boyfriend and also tried to reach her mother through social media.

According to Cera’s obituary, the mother of two daughters was born in Brandon, Manitoba. She lived in Vancouver and California and moved to North Carolina about 12 years ago.

“She loved the water and her place of peace was going to Sunset Beach,” the obituary said. “Lara loved life and was passionate about the welfare of animals. She will be sorely missed by her family and friends who supported her throughout her journey of 41 years.”

‘Death by distribution’

In some cases, law enforcement and prosecutors have pursued second-degree murder charges against people charged with selling drugs that resulted in an overdose, including in Durham, Orange and Wake counties.

In July, Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law the “Death by Distribution” Act, which allows prosecutors to more easily obtain second-degree murder convictions against drug dealers whose sales result in overdoses.

The Sheriff’s Office is waiting for more information before deciding whether to press additional charges against Hopkins, spokesperson AnnMarie Breen said by email Friday.

In 2005, Hopkins was convicted of manslaughter in Durham County in the shooting death of 20-year-old Gerald L. Shaw in 1998. He served about a year and four months in jail, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety website.

In 1998, Hopkins was convicted of felony possession with intent to sell of schedule VI drug and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. In 2004, he was convicted of two counts of misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun

Virginia Bridges covers criminal justice in Orange and Durham counties for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer. She has worked for newspapers for more than 15 years. In 2017, the N.C. Press Association awarded her first place for beat feature reporting. The N.C. State Bar Association awarded her the 2018 Media & Law Award for Best Series.
  Comments