Reversal: Man who injected wife with drugs can’t be charged with felony murder

A man alleged to have killed his wife after she died from a narcotic drug injection he administered cannot be charged with felony murder, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Nathaniel Walmsley was charged with felony murder after his wife, Rachel, overdosed and died after Walmsley injected her with what he claimed to have thought was heroin, but was actually fentanyl. Walmsley said the married couple had consulted with one another about purchasing and using heroin on the day of Rachel’s death before he purchased drugs from James Trimnell, and injected himself and his wife.

Walmsley filed a motion to dismiss his felony murder charge in Ripley County, arguing that injecting Rachel with drugs that they jointly purchased and possessed did not amount to dealing. The Ripley Circuit Court denied his motion to dismiss, however, and Walmsley contended the trial court erred in its decision during oral arguments before the Indiana Court of Appeals earlier this month.

Specifically on appeal, Walmsley did not dispute that the injected drug was a Schedule I or II narcotic as relevant to the term “dealing” under Indiana Code § 35-48-4- 1(a)(1)(C). Instead, he argued he didn’t “deliver” the drug to Rachel when he injected her, as defined in Ind. Code § 35-48-1-11.

In ruling for Walmsley, the appellate court rejected the state’s assertion that Duncan v. State, 857 N.E.2d 955 (Ind. 2006), was controlling, noting Rachel was an adult who chose to use drugs and consented to the injection, not a “two-year-old who did not voluntarily choose to ingest methadone.”

Additionally, the panel concluded in Nathaniel Cartwright Walmsley v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-02506, that Walmsley did not “deliver” the drug to Rachel when he injected her.

“In other words, when two or more people jointly acquire possession of a drug for their own use, intending only to share it together, they do not ‘deliver’ the drug when they inject or hand the drug to the other person, since they acquired possession from the outset and did not intend to distribute the drug to a third person,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote, joined by Judges Robert Altice and James Kirsch.

“Here, the basis of the State’s felony-murder charge against Nathaniel is that he delivered the drug to Rachel by injecting her,” Vaidik continued. “Nathaniel’s affidavit, however, provides that Nathaniel and Rachel agreed to purchase heroin from Trimnell, they used Rachel’s tip money to purchase it, and Trimnell handed the drug to Nathaniel ‘in Rachel’s presence [and] with her knowledge.’ The State did not submit any evidence to dispute these allegations and at oral argument maintained that Rachel’s involvement in the purchase of the drug was not ‘relevant.’”

The court therefore concluded Walmsley could not be charged with felony murder for injecting Rachel and reversed the denial of his motion to dismiss the charge.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}