Man arrested in woman's heroin overdose death

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Police have arrested a man in connection with the drug-related death of a young Phoenix woman whose body was found in a West Valley home Wednesday morning.

According to Sgt. Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department, the initial call came out as a possible drug overdose.

When officers arrived on the scene near 82nd Avenue and Osborn Road just after 8:30 a.m., they found the body of Natasha Gates. They determined that she had apparently died of an overdose. According to emergency responders, she was partially clothed, laying outside a bathtub filled with water.

Investigators learned that John Robert Franklin allegedly injected the 27-year-old with heroine Tuesday night after she told his roommate via text that she wanted to get high.

The roommate, Jacob Czelusniak, said he returned home at about 9 p.m. to find both Franklin and Gates high. Czelusniak said Franklin was passed out in the bathroom and Gates was "incoherent" in the bedroom.

While information from the two men conflicted a bit, detectives believe Franklin, 27, quickly figured out that Gates had OD'd, but neither he nor his roommate for called medical help until the next morning after she had already died, Thompson explained.

According to court paperwork, it was actually Czelusniak's mother who called 911. Concerned about a text from her son saying his life was over, she went to his house, learned what had happened and then saw Gates's body in the bathroom.

Czelusniak told police Gates had smoked heroin before, but he didn't think she had injected it.

Franklin told police he showed Gates how to inject herself, but denied actually injecting her.

Thompson said the evidence contradicts that.

After finding Gates's body in the home, police executed a search warrant.

"[D]etectives found heroin and paraphernalia used to ingest heroin in the house, as well as mushrooms and equipment to cultivate mushrooms," Thompson wrote in a news release.

While the case is still under investigation, Franklin has been booked on suspicion of negligent homicide and a variety of drug charges. Additional charges are possible.

"This is the first time, to the best of my knowledge, we have ever charged someone with the death of another in an overdose," Thompson said in an email.

"It's important for people to understand that when you are with your friends, if you choose to do illegal drugs or other things, that you are responsible for their safety, as well," he continued in an interview with 3TV.

Thompson said it was the "totality of the circumstances" that led police to recommend the homicide charge against Franklin.

"You have an individual who injected the heroin, then saw it was causing an overdose and neglected to contact medical help," he explained, summing up how detectives determined probable cause to arrest Franklin.

A judge set Franklin's bond at $35,000. A status conference has been set for Oct. 25, followed by a preliminary hearing on Oct. 29.