Drugs likely cause two more deaths

Just days after state and local lawmakers and police officials gathered in the county to discuss the major drug epidemic, two more people have lost their lives to apparent drug overdoses in the Leetonia area.

Leetonia Police Chief Harry Lovejoy Jr. said police found a man and woman dead in the bedroom of their Columbia Street home on Friday after a relative came home and called police around 6:30 p.m.

Police believe the deaths are drug related, due to the fact that drug paraphernalia was found near the bodies.

“When we arrived it was very apparent that they were deceased,” he said of the man and woman identified as Jason Benner, 43, and Lisa Winwood, 35, both of 371 Columbia St.

They were pronounced dead at the scene by a county coroner’s investigator.

“It was almost as apparent it was a drug overdose, possibly heroin,” Lovejoy said.

The drug matter found inside the home will be tested at a lab, but the chief is pretty certain the deaths were caused by heroin.

“Ever since I have taken over five months ago, one of my main focuses was the drug epidemic,” Lovejoy said. “We’ve had more drug arrests in the last five months than in the last three years combined. This makes it clear we have a long way to go with the fight against drugs.”

Part of that fight includes educating people about the consequences of drug use and finding out where the drugs are coming from, he added.

“We are always going to put our time and energy into where drugs come from and how they received them. Ultimately when it comes to drug users they tend to have some of the same dealers. Unfortunately, it usually hits close to home when other victims are found,” he said.

The police department is considering the deaths accidental at this point, and is continuing to investigate with help from the coroner’s office.

Lovejoy said Benner and Winwood, who were possibly in a relationship, lived in the home with about four of five other adult relatives, none of whom appeared to be home at the time of the deaths, and do not have any association with drug activity. No children live in the home, he added.

Meanwhile, that same evening not far away, a 38-year-old woman was brought out of a drug overdose by EMS personnel who used Narcan.

According to the county sheriff’s report, a deputy was called to 889 Cherry Valley Road at 9 p.m. where they met Leetonia EMS personnel who said they had used the drug to reverse the overdose effects of heroin on Trisha Morris.

Morris reportedly admitted to the deputy that she had used heroin prior to walking into the home and could not remember anything after that. She was then taken by EMS to the Salem Regional Medical Center.

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