An Oak Ridge man has been charged with second-degree murder in the drug-related death of another Oak Ridge man in February.
It could be the first time that anyone has been charged with murder, rather than homicide, for a drug-related fatality in Anderson County. There has been a previous case where a man was charged with and convicted of homicide in a drug overdose death.
The man who died on February 6 was Steven Douglas Scruggs, 34.
Indicted in his death was Ronald Nicholas Bunch, 28, of West Wadsworth Circle in Oak Ridge. Bunch’s indictment for second-degree murder on June 4 said he unlawfully and knowingly killed Scruggs through the unlawful distribution of a Schedule II controlled substance, and the drug caused Scruggs’ death. Second-degree murder is a Class A felony in Tennessee.
The charge of second-degree murder, part of a three-count indictment, doesn’t specifically say what drug killed Scruggs. But the second count of the indictment charged Bunch with possessing fentanyl, a Schedule II medication, for resale.
Bunch was also charged with tampering with evidence.
He pleaded not guilty during a June 24 arraignment in Anderson County Criminal Court in Clinton. His next court date is scheduled for August 30.
In a separate indictment also filed June 4, Bunch has been charged with selling heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, and fentanyl. He has also pleaded not guilty to those charges, which are Class B and Class C felonies.
Witnesses for the state in the grand jury proceedings have included Timothy Buckner of the Seventh Judicial District Crime Task Force in Anderson County and Jeremy Phillips of the Oak Ridge Police Department.
Bunch has remained jailed in the Anderson County Detention Facility in Clinton since his June 6 arrest, with his bond set at $175,000, according to jail records.
In a June 10 motion, Ryan M. Spitzer, assistant district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District, asked for Bunch’s bond to be temporarily revoked or increased. An agent with the Seventh Judicial District Crime Task Force reported that Bunch told his mother in a recorded telephone call from jail that he intended to “make bond” and flee Anderson County, Spitzer wrote in the motion. Bunch directed his mother to not tell the bonding company that he planned to flee, Spitzer wrote.
Bunch’s conduct has demonstrated that he is a risk to the community, and there is a great risk that he could flee, Spitzer said.
It’s not clear if the court has responded yet to the emergency motion to increase or revoke bond, if there has been a hearing, or if the bond amount has changed.
Other jurisdictions have also been charging defendants with homicide and second-degree murder in drug-related fatalities as cities, counties, and states battle the nation’s opioid epidemic. See our previous story here for more information.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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