West York couple charged in friend’s overdose death
A West York mother and father are facing charges after a close friend died from a heroin overdose on their living room couch in January.
Crystal Ertz and Jermaine Johnson, both 40 and both of 1101 W. King St., Apt. 1, were charged Tuesday with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment — both misdemeanors — in the Jan. 14 death of Brandon Duffy.
Duffy showed up at Ertz and Johnson’s apartment about 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12, and Ertz and Johnson both told police they knew he was high on heroin at the time, according to charging documents.
Johnson called 911 about 2:05 a.m. Jan. 13 after noticing Duffy’s lips were blue, court documents state.
West York Police found Duffy unresponsive on the living room couch, where “he was pale, cold to the touch and had no pulse,” according to charging documents.
“Officers also observed and took exception to the fact that both of Duffy’s legs were through one hole in his shorts,” West York patrolman Scott Musselman wrote in the charging documents.
Duffy had been unconscious for at least five hours before emergency personnel were notified, court documents state.
Duffy was transported to York Hospital, where he was kept alive by life-support machines. He was later declared to be brain dead and taken off life support on Jan. 14, court documents show.
According to online court records, Johnson was arraigned on the charges Tuesday and remains in York County Prison, unable to post his $40,000 bail, while Ertz was arraigned Wednesday afternoon and is also at York County Prison, in lieu of $20,000 bail.
‘Sleep it off’: In interviews with West York police 10 days after Duffy’s death, Ertz and Johnson said they called 911 after multiple failed attempts over several hours to wake Duffy, and they admitted to moving him from their bed to the living room couch while he was unconscious, documents state.
Ertz and Johnson told police that Duffy was “extremely hyper” when he came to their apartment on Jan. 12, and they knew he was high on heroin, documents state.
After Duffy “nodded off” on the couple's bed about 8:30 p.m., Johnson said he thought Duffy was just “messed up” and went to smoke marijuana Duffy had brought with him, according to court documents.
Johnson said he started to grow concerned after Duffy started making noises while unconscious, and he and Ertz decided to move Duffy from the bed to the living room couch, documents state.
After moving Duffy, Ertz said she and Johnson discussed whether to call 911, but “they mutually decided not to call an ambulance and to let him sleep it off,” documents state.
Ertz told police she then left the house to “get some air” and went to Giant for snacks for the couple’s two teenage daughters, who were home at the time, according to court documents.
After making the snacks, Ertz and Johnson realized Duffy still hadn’t moved and called 911 at 2:04 a.m., documents state.
One last high: In a Jan. 24 interview with West York Police, Kaitlyn Miller, Duffy’s girlfriend and the mother of his child, said the two planned to spend Jan. 15 together and had agreed to take heroin one last time before trying to get clean, documents state.
Miller said Duffy was supposed to purchase the drugs and have “Maine Maine” — Johnson’s nickname — try them out, documents state.
In the interview, Miller told police she last texted Duffy at 7:31 p.m. Jan 12, just after he arrived at Ertz and Johnson’s apartment.
Miller later texted Ertz asking if Duffy was still at her apartment, and Ertz replied about 9:40 p.m., saying that he had “passed out,” documents state.
At 9:50 p.m., Ertz texted Miller that they were unable to wake Duffy.
More than two hours later, Ertz again texted Miller saying Duffy was not waking up and asking what to do. Miller replied, asking if Duffy had taken drugs, but she received no response, documents state.
Ertz sent Miller a final text at 1:43 a.m. Jan. 13 saying Ertz and Johnson were still unable to wake Duffy, documents state.
Ertz and Johnson both expressed regret for not calling 911 sooner and said they were trying to keep Duffy out of trouble, documents state.
“Johnson admitted to purposely not calling the ambulance earlier because he ‘didn’t wanna rat on him … and get him in trouble,'” Musselman wrote in the charging documents. “(Johnson) wanted to save Duffy’s reputation because he was trying to get his life back together.”