Boy, 12, dies from fentanyl overdose after uncle had him clean drug lab, NJ cops say

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Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle

A 12-year-old boy was found unresponsive on his school bus and died days later from a fentanyl overdose, according to authorities in New Jersey.

He lived with his uncle, Troy Nokes, who’s accused of making the boy clean up his drug lab where he made fentanyl, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office said in a news release.

Nokes, 35, of Blackwood, was charged on March 21 in connection to his nephew’s fatal overdose, according to prosecutors. The charges include first-degree aggravated manslaughter and second-degree employing a juvenile in a drug distribution scheme.

A school nurse tried saving the boy when he was found on Jan. 24, before EMS arrived and brought him to a hospital, the release said. Then he “ultimately succumbed to his injuries” and died on Feb. 1. His name was not released.

A postmortem exam conducted by Philadelphia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined he died from fentanyl intoxication.

Nokes is accused of having his nephew clean fentanyl contaminated drug paraphernalia, according to authorities. The boy wasn’t wearing protective gloves when doing so, witnesses told police.

Additionally, Joanna Johnson is named as Nokes’ co-defendant and is charged with tampering evidence and hindering the apprehension of Nokes, the release said. Both were arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service Regional Fugitive Task Force.

Fentanyl is a powerful, synthetic opioid “80-100 times stronger than morphine” and is often advertised as strong heroin, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

From 2019 to 2020, drug deaths of children ages 10 to 14 tripled, CNN reported based on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis conducted for the outlet.

The boy’s death is one of several youth fentanyl overdose deaths over the past year.

On March 3, the grandparents of a toddler who overdosed from fentanyl were arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Tennessee, McClatchy News previously reported.

A 13-year-old boy who overdosed in January was found to have had more than 100 bags of fentanyl in his bedroom, ABC News reported.

The investigation into the boy’s death is ongoing, according to prosecutors. The name of his school wasn’t specified in the release.

Nokes is also charged with:

  • First-degree strict liability drug-induced death

  • First degree maintaining a (controlled dangerous substance) production facility

  • Six counts of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child

  • Six counts of third-degree witness tampering

  • One count of fourth-degree tampering with evidence

  • Two counts of third-degree hindering apprehension

  • Two counts of third-degree aggravated assault

Additionally, Nokes faces “seven other related charges,” according to the release.

Nokes and Johnson are being held at the Camden County Correctional Facility ahead of a pretrial detention hearing, the prosecutor’s office said.

His Blackwood home where his nephew lived is located in Gloucester Township, roughly 44 miles south of Trenton.

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