Prosecutors on Tuesday charged an alleged drug dealer in connection with the overdose death of a man who bought narcotics from him one year ago. The announcement of charges against 31-year-old Christopher Paulus is a victory for families who have been pressing Cook County authorities to hold more dealers responsible for fatal overdoses.
Paulus is charged with felony drug-induced homicide. Judge Arthur Willis ordered him held in lieu of $250,000 bail. Willis also ordered Paulus held without bail on a fugitive warrant from Maryland.
Assistant States Attorney James Murphy laid out detailed allegations, including a string of damning text messages, during a bond hearing Tuesday afternoon.
Murphy said Joshua Bloomfield, age 29, and his husband went to a birthday party in the suburbs on May 27, 2019. Bloomfield’s husband left the party and drove to Wisconsin to prepare for a job interview he had scheduled for the next day.
Bloomfield returned to their Edgewater home around 9 p.m. and began exchanging messages with Paulus, Murphy said. The two had known each other for a few years after meeting in a drug rehabilitation program, according to Murphy.
During a text exchange, Bloomfield invited Paulus to come over.
“OK, sure. I can come over,” Paulus allegedly replied. “I got some T, D, C, and X available,” references to methamphetamine, Dilaudid, cocaine, and ecstasy. Cellphone data shows Paulus arrived at Bloomfield’s home at 10:40 p.m. and stayed there until around 3:30 a.m. on May 28, Murphy said.
Bloomfield reportedly texted Paulus a short time later to question the amount of change Paulus gave him in a drug transaction.
“How did $50 in D and $20 in T come out to 90?” Bloomfield asked. “I think I f*cked up and overpaid you on accident.”
Paulus allegedly replied that he gave Bloomfield correct change and added, “that raw laid you out like Mike Tyson in his prime.” Raw is a slang term for uncut narcotics, usually heroin.
Later that day, Bloomfield’s husband returned from Wisconsin and found Bloomfield dead on their bathroom floor. A syringe was lying in the sink and he appeared to have injection marks on his arms, Murphy said.
The Cook County medical examiner ruled his death an accident caused by combined drug and alcohol toxicity. Heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and two prescription drugs were found in his system, according to medical examiner records.
Bloomfield’s husband, who found Bloomfield’s text messages with Paulus, had forbidden Bloomfield from associating with Paulus after a non-fatal overdose three months earlier, Murphy said.
In that case, Paulus allegedly apologized for Bloomfield’s brush with death, telling the husband, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I told him to be careful.”
Before moving to Chicago five years ago, Paulus was convicted of several crimes in Maryland, including grand larceny and DUI, according to statements made in bond court. Public defender Kathryn Lisco said Bloomfield was Paulus’ best friend and he has struggled with addiction for years.
“What concerns the court most are those texts,” Judge Willis said before reading from notes he took during Murphy’s presentation. “That raw laid you out like Mike Tyson in his prime.”
Drug dealers are rarely charged with the deaths of customers who die from ingesting purchased narcotics in Chicago. That’s despite the fact that overdose fatalities, particularly from heroin, are skyrocketing.
Opioid-related deaths in Cook County are up over 100% through May 31 this year when compared to the same time period in 2019, ProPublica Illinois reported today. The county recorded 924 opioid deaths through the end of May, compared to 461 during the first five months of last year, according to the news organization.
Sylvia Schafer, Bloomfield’s mother, last summer led a campaign to push county officials to pursue charges against drug dealers in overdose cases.
“[Joshua] was a joy. He was quick-witted and funny, and a beautiful, beautiful face. I mean, and it’s gone,” she said.
Following a march from the county morgue to the county’s criminal courthouse last July, another parent who lost a child to an overdose spoke out. Noting that 2,600 people had died of overdoses in the county since 2015, Theresa Almanza said, “only one drug dealer has gone to jail for drug-induced homicide.
“Why are drug dealers getting away with murdering our children?” Almanza asked.
“I think it’s a shame that you have to beg, and you have to do all the work,” Schafer said. “You have to do all of the pulling of teeth, and the law is there. You just have to enforce it.”
Earlier this year, the Sun-Times reported that Chicago police would begin considering homicide charges against drug dealers. Suburban jurisdictions and surrounding counties file such charges more regularly, according to the paper.
A CPD spokesperson told the Sun-Times that drug-related homicide cases are “complex because detectives need to prove the dealer knew that the drugs could kill the customer.”
“Refer to it as drug poisoning and not drug overdose,” Schaefer told the paper. “My son didn’t kill himself. He wasn’t suicidal. He had great plans on the horizon.”