Brother of North Huntingdon overdose victim charged in her death

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Paul Peirce, Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.
·2 min read
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May 4—The brother of a overdose victim in North Huntingdon was one of two men arrested Monday on charges of helping his sister buy a dose of heroin-fentanyl that killed her Jan. 12, according to court documents.

Forrest G. Piper Jr., 49, of West Newton, the brother of Iona J. Runkle, 46, was arraigned on charges of drug delivery resulting in death filed by township police. He was jailed on $25,000 bond.

The other man, Jason A. Lewis, 48, of Boston, was arrested hours before Piper. He was ordered held in the county jail without bond because he was considered a risk to the community with pending drug-related charges, including reckless endangerment, filed by Murrysville police in a March 9 overdose incident, according to court papers filed before Harrison City District Judge Helen Kistler.

The pair was arrested after a three-month investigation by township police Det. Thomas Harris and county Det. Tony Marcocci.

According to court documents filed by Harris, police were dispatched 2 p.m. Jan. 12 to Runkle's mobile home in Dusty Rhodes Trailer Court for a woman who was found on the floor unresponsive.

Runkle's boyfriend, Paul Nickle, reported that he came home from work and found her laying face down next to the bed, Harris reported. Next to her head was a department store box containing stamp bags — two empty and three full — of heroin.

While Harris was processing the scene, he reported that Nickle received a phone call from Piper who wanted to speak with him.

"Piper said he was with his sister yesterday and saw her snort a bag of heroin," Harris wrote in court documents.

During a later interview, Piper told Harris and Marcocci that he was visiting his sister and "she wanted to buy some dope."

Piper told investigators he made a call to buy about 10 stamp bags of heroin Jan. 11 from a man he knew as "Jason." Piper told police he and his sister split the heroin.

Piper said he was with his sister when she snorted one-half of a stamp bag and she only told him "it burned."

Harris reported that he and Marcocci identified Lewis by securing video from the Sheetz convenience store where the drug transaction took place, which included footage of the license number on Lewis' 2016 Honda SUV.

According to Runkle's obituary, she is survived by four daughters and a grandson.

Preliminary hearings are tentatively scheduled May 12.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, ppeirce@triblive.com or via Twitter .