Heroin dealer convicted of manslaughter after overdose death

(Photo: Carteret County Sheriff's Office)

BEAUFORT, Carteret County - A drug dealer was convicted of manslaughter after her sale of heroin led to the death of a man three years ago.

April Guthrie Thomas, 34, of Newport was convicted by a jury and sentenced to prison for involuntary manslaughter and delivery of heroin in connection to the death of Kendal Walbert in 2014, officials said in a press release.

The case was prosecuted as second-degree murder, but the jury returned with a verdict for the lesser offence on Thursday, November 16.

Walbert died of a heroin overdose in mid-August of 2014 after purchasing the drug from Thomas and co-defendant Michael Becker, who testified at Thomas' trial.

Thomas was sentenced to a minimum of three and a half years with a maximum of just under six years in prison for the charges. The sentences were the maximum sentences allowed by law for her charges, officials said.

Thomas was already in jail after being convicted in 2015 for sale of heroin and sale of cocaine. The prison sentence for those charges will not be completed until September 2018.

Thomas' latest sentences will not begin until she has finished serving her prison sentences for the prior convictions, officials said.


BEAUFORT, Carteret County - Two people who sold heroin to a man who later died have been indicted on second degree murder charges.

According to a press release from the Carteret County Sheriff's Office, Michael John Becker, 51, and April Thomas Guthrie, 33, were indicted on murder charges in the 2014 overdose death of Kendal Walbert, which happened at 200 Lydia Drive in Newport.

According to Det. Sgt. James Pittman, Becker and Guthrie, who are both from 702 Courtyard West in Newport, sold heroin to Walbert, who was 23 at the time. He died on Aug. 16, 2014 after using the heroin.

"Sheriff Buck and I remain committed to fighting illegal drug activity and the deadly consequences that follow the illegal drug activity," District Attorney Scott Thomas said in the press release. "We will continue to evaluate the evidence in each case involving the sale and distribution of illegal drugs and charge for the criminal conduct involved.

"It is imperative that individuals who engage in the sale of drugs understand they will be held accountable for their acts. We are trying to address the drug problem in Carteret County by focusing on education, prevention, intervention, treatment and enforcement."

Becker and Guthrie have been charged with one count each of second degree murder with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, sell and deliver heroin and conspiracy to sell and deliver heroin. Guthrie is currently in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections women's prison in Raleigh serving a six-year sentence for the sale and delivery of narcotics. Her first court appearance is scheduled for July 18. Becker was arrested on July 11 and was placed on a $225,000 secured bond. His first court appearance was Tuesday.

"I commend the investigators and the District Attorney's Office for working to bring forth a prosecutable case and hold these two drug dealers responsible for their actions which contributed to death of a young man in our County," Sheriff Asa Buck said. "Drug dealers prey upon people with addictions so they can make money or feed their own addictions. The drug problem is one of the main factors in most of our crime and accidental death in our society and we must continue to battle it every day.

"I hope this arrest and prosecution sends a message that where the evidence is available, drug dealers will be held accountable for their actions when their poison causes someone's death."

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