Police: Suspect drove around for hours after friend overdosed, died in car

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

Within hours of leaving a Lancaster County rehab facility, Angelique Smith was texting the man who would ultimately be charged in her overdose death.

Investigators say that friend, Charles Cassell III, picked up some heroin — “good stuff” from Baltimore, he’d later allegedly tell a friend — that he brought with him when he picked Smith up the next day.

By 2 p.m. on Oct. 23, 2020, the pair had allegedly used a bag of the heroin in a convenience store parking lot. They drove around, police said, then found a spot near Jim Gross Park and used a second bag.

Cassell reportedly told police that he performed CPR on Smith after noticing that she had overdosed at about 4:30 p.m. By 6 p.m., she was dead — but, according to police, Cassell waited another hour and a half to call the authorities.

Now Cassell faces a murder charge — among others — related to Smith’s death.

Charles Cassell III

The 54-year-old York man was arraigned in the case Friday during a hearing in York County Common Pleas Court. He’s charged with felony counts of third-degree murder, drug delivery resulting in death, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and criminal use of a communication facility, as well as misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and tampering with evidence.

The charge of drug delivery resulting in death, a first-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, was added to Pennsylvania law around 2011 in order to deter drug dealing and overdose deaths. Last year, York County prosecutors filed six such cases.

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In this case, police found Smith dead in Cassell’s car behind the Royal Farms gas station on Loucks Road after responding to a call from Cassell at about 7:45 p.m. on Oct. 23, 2020.

Investigators learned Smith had left a residential drug rehabilitation center in Lancaster the day before. While wandering the city streets, she borrowed a woman’s phone, and police said she used it to call and text Cassell multiple times, according to the York City Police's affidavit of probable cause.

By the morning of Oct. 23, Smith had texted Cassell again, asking for a ride back to York County since she didn’t have any money. Cassell responded that he would set up an Uber ride for her, then allegedly asked if she wanted to get high, according to the affidavit.

Details in the document include what police describe as Cassell’s account of the situation, in which he described how the two did two bags of heroin while driving around. The second bag, he allegedly said, was “very potent,” the affidavit shows.

Smith began overdosing, and Cassell allegedly told police he stopped driving, performed CPR on Smith in a business parking lot, and then put her back in the car and took off. Cassell also told police that he has a medical background and knows the signs of a drug overdose from his time caring for overdose patients, the affidavit shows.

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Right around the time Smith died, Cassell allegedly told police, he stopped at a gas station and threw away their drug paraphernalia, then drove around again before making the call to police, the affidavit shows.

As police interviewed him, Cassell allegedly made an excuse about having car troubles, though police noted he drove for hours around York, including within a mile of UPMC Memorial hospital. Cassell then allegedly told police Smith had an outstanding warrant, and he was afraid she would get in trouble, the affidavit shows.

An autopsy found that Smith had died from acute fentanyl toxicity, police said. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that's up to 100 times stronger than morphine and is often found in heroin sold on the street.

Police also investigated Cassell’s Facebook account and discovered he had an online conversation with a witness that December, about a month and a half after Smith died. When asked about the quality of the heroin, Cassell allegedly wrote it was “good stuff, that it came from Baltimore,” the affidavit states.

Following the investigation, the case against Cassell was filed Nov. 3, 2021, and he was arrested Dec. 15, court documents show. After moving through a magisterial district court, the case reached Common Pleas Court.

As part of Cassell’s arraignment Friday, Judge Harry Ness set the next hearing date for May 2.

— Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.