CHRISTIANSBURG — A Radford man ate methamphetamine to avoid a drug bust — but died hours later because of it, investigators said in search warrants.
Elvis Aron Harris died in the early hours of June 21, the morning after he was stopped by police who suspected he and another man bought drugs at a Christiansburg house that was a suspected spot for meth sales.
Harris was released after telling investigators that the man he was with, Douglas Wayne Pearman of Radford, had eaten the meth purchased at the Christiansburg house, search warrants said.
But back home in Radford, Harris told his girlfriend that it was he, not Pearman, who had eaten the evidence.
By about 3:30 a.m., Harris was having trouble breathing, having seizures and hallucinating, his girlfriend told investigators. At about 3:44 a.m., Harris stopped breathing, a search warrant said.
Emergency workers took Harris to Carilion New River Valley Medical Center, where he died, a search warrant said.
An online obituary notice said Harris was 37.
Attorney Mark Anderson of Blacksburg, who was representing Harris on a drug possession charge from last summer, said Friday that he had only learned of Harris’ death Monday when Harris did not arrive for a court hearing and prosecutors — who did know that Harris had died — asked a judge to drop the earlier drug charge.
“It’s a shame. He had a problem,” Anderson said.
Harris operated a roofing business , and apart from drugs, Anderson said, seemed healthy and was pleasant to deal with. He said that he had last spoken to Harris on June 20 in a phone call ahead of Monday’s hearing.
The case from last year was separate from the circumstances that led to Harris’ death, Anderson said.
Three people have been charged in connection with the drug sales preceding Harris’ overdose. Pearman is accused of possessing a controlled substance, and the occupants of the Christiansburg house — Crystal Dawn Stigger and Jason Patrick Stump — are charged with other drug offenses.
Stigger, who is charged with manufacturing a controlled substance, has a bond hearing scheduled for Friday in Montgomery County General District Court.
Stump is charged with manufacturing a controlled substance and distributing marijuana.
A series of search warrants indicate an ongoing investigation into the distribution of the drugs that killed Harris and also detail the events before his death.
According to the warrants, on June 20 Sgt. Ronnie Alley of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office was watching a suspected meth house in the 100 block of Christiansburg’s Haymaker Street. About 8:36 p.m., a maroon truck stopped, and two men walked into the house. They were Harris and Pearman, the search warrant said.
No more than three minutes later, the pair left. Christiansburg police Officer Victor Campos pulled over the truck in the parking lot of a Red Robin restaurant near Peppers Ferry Road. Harris, the driver and owner of the truck, told officers they could search, a search warrant said.
Alley reported that he assisted with the search , and in the passenger seat, where Pearman was sitting, found two plastic baggies with suspected crystal meth residue. Under the seat was a glass smoking device and a set of digital scales, a search warrant said.
Harris and Pearman at first denied being at the Haymaker Street home, then said they’d gone because Pearman was to work on Stigger’s lawn tractor. Each said the other had bought meth from Stigger.
Harris said that when police closed in, Pearman ate the meth to “destroy the evidence,” a search warrant said.
Pearman was arrested for drug possession based on the residue in the passenger seat.
Harris was questioned and told investigators that he had smoked meth a couple of days before. Eventually, officers let Harris go and he returned to Radford.
There, Harris told Quesenberry about eating the meth himself, a search warrant said.
Harris told Quesenberry that Pearman tried to hide the meth under the truck’s seat during the traffic stop, and that Harris had picked up the drug and swallowed it, a search warrant said.
After Harris’ death, investigators searched the house on Haymaker Street and collected bags of suspected crystal meth and suspected marijuana, scales and drug paraphernalia, Suboxone strips, phones, electronic devices and more.
A GoFundMe site set up on June 21 seeks money for Harris’ funeral expenses. It has collected $329 toward a $6,000 goal.