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In a First, Palm Coast Drug Dealer Is Indicted on 1st Degree Murder in Overdose Death of Savannah Deangelis

| February 21, 2018

Renée Deangelis, mother of Savannah, 23, who died of an overdose last fall, speaks to the press this afternoon, with her husband, Charles, and her daughter Christina, to the left of the image, and Sheriff Rick Staly to the right. Assistant State Prosecutor Jason Lewis and State Attorney R.J. Larizza are toward the left corner. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Renée Deangelis, mother of Savannah, 23, who died of an overdose last fall, speaks to the press this afternoon, with her husband, Charles, and her daughter Christina, to the left of the image, and Sheriff Rick Staly to the right. Assistant State Prosecutor Jason Lewis and State Attorney R.J. Larizza are toward the left corner. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Joseph Colon, a 34-year-old Palm Coast resident with a long history of drug dealing and imprisonment, was indicted Tuesday on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Savannah Deangelis, 23, who overdosed on heroin and possibly fentanyl in late October, mere minutes after taking delivery of a packet of drugs allegedly sold by Colon at her Grand Haven home.

It is the first time in Flagler County history and in the Seventh Judicial Circuit, which includes Volusia, St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler, that a drug dealer is charged with the murder of a person who’s overdosed. The Legislature passed a law (HB 477) expanding such charges last year to include death by fentanyl, methadone, opium and other drugs, and to impose a first-degree felony charge even for possession of such drugs in amounts of 10 grams or more. Florida joined 19 other states with similar “drug-induced homicide” laws.

Those laws vary by state, three of which apply them only when the victim is younger than 18, though in six states, including Florida, the minimum penalty is life in prison. The laws have generated a degree of controversy and are difficult to prosecute, but such cases have more than tripled since 2011, with Midwestern states leading the way, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

The first person to be indicted and found guilty of a similar charge in federal court, Christopher Sharod Massena, of Lake Worth, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in December 2016 after a jury found him guilty of selling the fentanyl that killed 23-year-old Christian Hernandez.

A grand jury indicted Colon on the first-degree charge Tuesday. He was served at 1:02 p.m. at the Flagler County jail, where he’s been held since his arrest on a traffic and drug charges on Nov. 8—as Savannah Deangelis lay dying, on a respirator, in a hospital.

“We’re here today to bring justice to a family that has suffered a terrible loss.”

“The defendant Colon has a history of trafficking and sales in narcotics,” State Attorney R.J. Larizza said at a press conference at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office this afternoon. “It is unfortunate and somewhat troubling that our victim, Ms. Deangelis, was placed in the drug court program, and two days later her path crossed with the defendant, and subsequently she died of an overdose. We also have other overdoses linked to this defendant, that have not been charged, but luckily in those particular cases the individuals survived.” Two people had come forward during the investigation to report that they had survived violent overdoses after buying drugs from Colon.

Deangelis had not only been in drug court: she had also been a resident at WARM, the recovery program in Bunnell. But she had been released on furlough in the days immediately before Hurricane Irma. She relapsed during that furlough—even though her parents implored the program to keep her during the storm, where she would have been safer than in Grand Haven anyway–and was expelled from WARM.

DeAngelis’s family—her mother Renée, her father Charles and her sister, Christina—were all by Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly’s side this afternoon as he announced the charge on Colon and spoke of the work his detectives carried out to secure the indictment, chief among them  detective Nicole Thomas and Cmdr. Steve Brandt. Renée Deangelis also singled out Thomas, calling her “an angel” after putting her arm around her as she addressed the cameras today.

“We’re here today to bring justice to a family that has suffered a terrible loss,” the sheriff said during the press conference. “Nothing I say or our agency can do will bring back their daughter. But I hope this arrest will give you some closure, knowing that he cannot hurt any one else’s son or daughter.” (The sheriff had to collect himself at one point before resuming his summary of the case. The Deangelis family, standing to his right, was not in much better shape.)

It was around noon last Oct. 28 that sheriff’s deputies had responded to 19 Front Street in Palm Coast, where Deangelis’s father had found Savannah on the floor in the family’s bathroom, unresponsive. She never regained consciousness and died on Nov. 13. That day, at 11:33 a.m., Colon was seen on surveillance video entering the subdivision. At the gate, the name he gave was “Joey.” He’s alleged to have stopped in front of Savannah’s house. She runs out. She takes a packet from the driver. The Driver speeds off. Charles DeAngelis found her at 11:55 a.m., surrounded by an empty plastic bag, a syringe, and a substance that tested positive for heroin and another “which we believe to be fentanyl,” Staly said.

Staly spoke of the skyrocketing rates of overdose deaths in Florida, particularly from fentanyl, a drug from 50 to 100 times more potent and fast-acting than heroin, developed in the 1990s to treat severe pain, especially after surgery, but under equally severe, controlled circumstances.  Fentanyl derivatives are developed in illegal labs and are sold as a powder or mixed with heroin.

Joseph Colon.

Joseph Colon.

A House legislative analysis last year found that “fentanyl submissions to law enforcement increased 494 percent in Florida (from 33 to 196) between 2013 and 2014, while the state also experienced a 115 percent increase (from 185 to 397) in fentanyl-related deaths during the same time frame. Fentanyl analogs, specifically, were implicated in 49 drug overdose deaths in Florida between January and June 2015. The CDC estimates the numbers and rates of fentanyl deaths, relating to Florida specifically, are also underestimated because testing for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs is not systematic statewide”

Those numbers have been well surpassed since. In Flagler County alone last year, the Sheriff’s Office handled 60 overdose cases.

In Flagler, Staly is directing that all overdose deaths be handled as as murder investigations. “If you peddle poison in our community,” Staly said, directing his comment to dealers, “we are coming after you. If you murder someone with your drugs, we will find you, track you down, and arrest you for murder. It will be our goal that you spend of your life in prison.” Notably, the sheriff this time did not lace his comments with his more folksy overtones, underscoring the gravity of the issue. He had this to say to Colon in particular: “I hope you rot in prison until you die and [are] never able to hurt someone else with your poison.”

To the Deangelis, their daughter’s death and Colon’s arrest is not an end. “I want this to be the beginning of my family’s fight against this horrible epidemic,” Renée Deangelis said, “and we want to be able to reach other parents and other families through this. We need this to be a crusade and have some kind of good come out of this tragedy, right Savannah? We’re going to start today, baby. Love you.”

She said the case helps whether as a means of showing other parents that they may have a way to hold drug dealers accountable or to send a message.

Florida law provides for charging a death by overdose as a capital murder, but Larizza said he will not seek the death penalty in this case, saying it “we don’t believe it’s appropriate under the circumstances to seek the death penalty, we don’t think it would qualify for the death penalty.” And absent a conversation with the family, he said it’s not yet the time to talk about what pleas the prosecution would take. Jennifer Dutton is slated to be the assistant state prosecutor on the case. Her last high-profile case in Flagler was winning the conviction of Anna Pehota, the 76-year-old Hammock woman, on a second-degree murder charge in the killing of her husband of 57 years in 2015. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Of Savannah herself, her mother described her as “tall enough to be a model,” and with a “hilarious sense of humor.”

Renée Deangelis continued: “I miss the fact that I won’t have any grandchildren from her, I miss the fact that she won’t be a mother, she won’t get married, and this is something for the drug dealers to think about, what they’re robbing families of. My daughter here who’s married and has a child, I will never have that with my other daughter. Savannah was a very strong person. What can I say? We miss her sense of humor, she loved animals, she loved babies, she was just a wonderful human being. She was more than somebody who had a drug problem. She was a wonderful person, as I think it becomes overlooked sometimes when people become involved with drugs. But she was a wonderful person, and she was my baby at one time. All people who are drug addicts were somebody’s child and baby once, and we have to look at it like that and help them with their illness. They’re good people underneath. If I can help any parent, reach out to anybody, if anyone wants to reach out to me, I’m here to help. That’s my mission in life now, at this point. I need to help people so they don’t have to go through what I did, or if they do, at least I can help them through it.”

Savannah’s father Charles appeared too overcome to speak.

savannah deangelis opioids deaths

Savannah Deangelis in an image from her Facebook page.

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43 Responses for “In a First, Palm Coast Drug Dealer Is Indicted on 1st Degree Murder in Overdose Death of Savannah Deangelis”

  1. Stan says:

    Do like it was done in the Old West ,hang him in the town square! Make an example out of him,then you can ask who wants to be next?

  2. Just Another Day says:

    Funny how a junkie dies and a dealer catches murder chargers. Eventually enough people will die and others will wake up realizing this ain’t for them. I wasn’t aware he made them buy his drugs. So I guess it’s good dope if you don’t die. #mindblowen

  3. Damien says:

    Rick Staly, Get rid of them all Sir, We love when the long arm of the law takes out these killers of young people not yet smart enough to make better decisions. I voted for you, and I won. Palm Coast Won. May there always be vacancy for this ilk at the Green Roof Inn. Rated -1* and lowering

  4. a tiny manatee says:

    oh, she’s white and young. I see.

  5. Jason B says:

    Seriously? If I was on a jury I would never find him guilty of first degree murder unless he held her down and forced the drugs into her body. In this case, the victim has at least some responsibility in her drug use.

  6. Jenn says:

    Well it’s about time the drug dealers held responsible

  7. Jenn says:

    Very sorry for your lost I am with you on this. I am more than happy to help those who need it. Let’s stop this epidemic now….RIP Savannah

  8. Chris A Pickett says:


  9. Anonymous says:


  10. Kayla Eve says:

    So what if she is young and white?! the point here is she had a family who loved her and took action to prevent this from happening again to another person regardless of their age or race. This is a statement of no tolerance and I hope it saves at least one persons life.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Good, let the drug dealer’s feel the same pain as their victim’s. I hope the Death penalty is on the table.

  12. Just the truth says:

    Eye for an eye, death penalty.

  13. Andyourpoint says:

    Sad she died, but ahe decided to do drugs. He was just doing what he does. Yes, he is guilty of selling drugs but she decided to take them. He should not be charged with murder. If this happens to a black person, lets see if the dealer will be held accountable and charhed with tne same.

  14. Rick Kang says:

    Drugs!Drugs! We must STOP the drug sellers-NOW! Prayers to this beautiful young woman and her family.

  15. heartbroken says:

    not anymore

  16. MannyHMo says:

    This will make a drug dealer think twice at least.

  17. Buylocal says:

    If he sold her a single dose and it killed her that is murder.

  18. hawkeye says:

    Just because he is indicted doesn’t mean he will be found guilty , although I hope he is. Seems like the courts are very lenient.

  19. Anonymous says:

    This man had 8 Felony charges plus many others on his record. This entire case could have been prevented had he not been allowed to walk free after say, the SIXTH time he was caught selling narcotics/controlled substances,( That does not include this young lady’s case) Hooray for finally getting him off the street, unfortunately, it took a death to keep him there. Keep the pill pushers and heroin dealers in jail the first, second or even the third time they are caught. Perhaps this gal would have finished treatment , maybe not.

  20. Crime Stats 101 says:

    No other county in Florida has done this for one reason: crimes stats. If you count one overdose resulting from illegal drugs as a homicide then ALL overdoses resulting from illegal drug sales are homicides. If a black man overdoses from illegal drugs he purchased in Bunnell then that is a homicide. Now the Sheriff Staly has opened Pandora’s Box watch what happens. Although I believe that these illegal drug sales and corresponding deaths are truly homicides; the truth is, property values and commercial development are closely tied to a communities crime statistics.

    Now that Sheriff Staly has began to count these addict’s deaths as homicides how do we draw the line? Flagler County’s violent crime statistics will rise dramatically. Especially when no other counties are doing the same thing. Prospective investment groups will see the elevated crime rate in Flagler and shy away. Investments and job creation will suffer. Sheriff Staly will have to play favorites. Some deaths from illegal drug overdoses will be homicides and some will not. Watch and hold him accountable. This is politics 101.

  21. Veteran says:

    There are many countries where the drug dealer would have mysteriously disappeared soon after the police caught him!

  22. Itsnotablackorwhitecase says:

    So sick and tired of the people trying to make this a race issue!! I’m glad that a drug dealer is finally being charged with his actions, it’s about time..i.dont care if you’re black, white or polka-doted it’s about time justice rules. So take your prejudice and shut your mouth…its not about race!! #getthosedealersoffthestreet

  23. Truth says:

    They are gonna fry this dude. Legit. You get the death penalty if you kill someone in the act of a felony crime. This is textbook death penalty criteria

  24. south Florida says:

    R.I.P Savatnnah and sorry for your loss. its unfortunate, but its real.

  25. Will Camp says:

    Love reading these comments. “Hand the little brown evil person!” While I guess it is a nice gesture to make the racist Trump supporters here in Flagler county feel happy.and safe I wonder if charges are going to be brought to those who manufactured the highly addictive substance. Many of you lovely white folks in your perfect little lives get to sit back behind a keyboard and saw what you want. You white racist never throw the blame on your white owned and operated pharmaceuticals. Maybe because you all have stock options in it. You never get upset when a young Hispanic or a Black person dies. Only when one of your perfect little white children dies is when you all get into action and start parading around for political and social benefits. I hope you all are happy.

  26. gmath55 says:

    “If he sold her a single dose and it killed her that is murder.” WRONG! He didn’t put the drugs in her mouth did he?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Selling potentially lethal narcotics to people who don’t require them for legitimate medical reasons is immoral, regardless of your race, gender, income, or social status, and even regardless of the legal status of the narcotics themselves. People who peddle dangerous opiates/opioids to turn a profit will never get any sympathy from me, regardless of whether they are dealers, doctors, or pharmaceutical executives.

    With that being said, this just seems like a publicity stunt meant to bolster the illusion that something meaningful is being done about the drug problem. Arresting street level dealers who are most likely addicts themselves is just part of the system, but charging someone with first-degree murder when they did not technically commit first-degree murder is just putting on a show to keep people distracted from the root of the problem.

    Until the authorities start going after the big fish who are fueling the drug market by manufacturing, importing, and distributing these drugs, nothing is going to change. People who claim that most drug dealers will think twice because of this case seem to be ignoring the fact that most of these street-level dealers are themselves addicts who do not think rationally and do not care about the risks when it comes to supporting their habits.

  28. Anonymous says:

    One more thing. What I honestly hope comes out of this case is that Colon is put under enough pressure to cooperate with the authorities and give up his sources in exchange for the murder charge being dropped or lowered to manslaughter. If this investigation begins and ends with one street-level dealer, then I will consider it to have been a failure with no real progress made. I’m sure that dealers with the same source have already taken Colon’s place by now.

  29. carol says:

    But let’s ban drugs, and ban criminals. Just like they want to do with our guns!
    Nothing would happen if parents raise their children better.
    Yes, all the problem lies within the parents!!
    Yes, society is falling apart because of the lack of parenting.
    Don’t you people get it??????

  30. Dave says:

    Colons sources are pharmaceutical companies, did colon inject the drugs into Savanahs vein? Ive heard of people being convicted of murder in cases like that. Otherwise this wont stick. Florida is on the verge of releasing nonviolent offenders from prisons jus like Colon here. So dont count on it.

  31. nomorepitbulls says:

    Dude charged with MURDER? Not going for that. Lock him up for years for his MULTIPLE convictions of years of dealing drugs…

    Its unfortunate but SHE was a drug addict who would have illegally bought her drugs either from him or someone else in order to get high…so yes she paid the ultimate price but it was due to her own choices and actions.

    Lock him up for years for drug convictions…but I agree with others who say he did not force her to take them.

  32. Dave says:

    Colon and Savanah were the same creature, drug addicts, i know people like to find blame but there are alot of drug addicts in this country so you must start with the real dealers and their enablers, which is Big Pharma and your state legislatures,they are who is killing out family members with there lab made pills and laws that keep them pumping into our streets

  33. Hm says:

    So did he physically put the drugs into her body? Did he inject it for her? Or make her use it? Murder is not the correct charge I do not believe. That’s like someone selling someone a firearm, and they end up killing themselves or shooting someone, and charging the pawn shop or whoever sold a firearm with murder. I don’t know I think thI charge should be manslaughter though to be honest. Need more info for a murder charge.. imo

  34. Christina says:

    Difference is heroin/selling heroin is illegal and selling a gun isn’t.

  35. Hm says:

    Good point. Even if the person gave them the gun knowing the intent? I understand where all are coming from. Just seems like a gray area there…

  36. Christina says:

    It was heroin. Heroin is not sold my pharmaceutical companies.

  37. Brian Smith says:

    Can’t not build the wall fast enough, tons of drugs cross the border everyday..

  38. Brian Smith says:

    Let me get on the Jury, so I can fry this dirtbag!

  39. Katie Semore says:

    If there wasn’t a market for illegal drugs in this country there would be no reason for them to be brought into this country. Drug users as well as drug dealers need to be punishes alike. American drug users and addicts help fund terrorist activities when they purchase and use illegal drugs. Sell illegal drugs, go to jail. Buy and use illegal drugs, go to jail. It is the same difference.

  40. Really says:

    Bye bye dirtbag

  41. Christina says:

    Well Katie I guess the buyer/addict can’t be punished if their dead. my sister was in the drug court program and she was in jail, she was released from jail by the grace of the judge and was waiting for a bed to become available in rehab when she did the drugs and overdosed. I absolutely agree that there should be consequences for both parties, which is why I think that a dealer who was selling heroin which is deadly in it’s fucking self , knowing fentynal was ok it, should be punished to the fullest. I wish the people who are so judge mental could truly understand what it feels like to have this happen to one of their family members. I can guarantee you every single one of you would be singing a totally different tune

  42. anonymus for a reason says:

    This should be the rule and not the exception. Any dealer who sells drugs to an individual who overdoses should be charged with manslaughter at the bare minimum.

  43. Micro says:

    Well, good luck with that… a dealer who sold drugs to an aware buyer, who then died from an overdose or bad reaction is not first degree murder.
    His attorney should be able to easily win this, leading a nearly flawless defense based on almost any facts.
    If he planned and purposely sold her something with the intent of death, then there would be a case. I’m sorry, but the FCSO already lost this one.

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