SEBRING - In what may be the first case of its kind in Highlands County, a man has plead no contest to a charge that he killed another man by giving him drugs.
Ernest Gene Slover, 51, who lived at 803 Triumph Drive, Sebring, at the time of his arrest, was charged with capital murder and distributing a controlled substance. Recently he plead no contest to a reduced charge of manslaughter. Originally, Slover could have received the death penalty.
Assistant State Attorney Stephen Houchin said that Slover will have a sentencing hearing on June 2. During that hearing, the state will ask that Slover serve 15 years in prison, Houchin said.
Slover is accused of being responsible for the death of Steven Mahafee, who was found dead at Slover's former residence. An autopsy completed the next day showed that Mahafee died from morphine and ethanol intoxication, according to an arrest report.
Houchin said there have been cases in the 10th Judicial District, which includes Highlands, Polk and Hardee counties, that involved someone being charged with murder after they sold or provided drugs to a person who later died from using those drugs. But, he said, he's not aware of such a case in Highlands County before the Slover case.
Earlier this year, many web sites, including CNN, included coverage of the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is believed he died from a heroin overdose. The news articles speculated on whether the dealer could be charged with murder.
In Minnesota last year, prosecutors charged a drug dealer with murder after one of his customers died in 2012.
Houchin said those types of cases are relatively rare because it is hard to prove who provided the victims with the drugs that killed them.
In the Slover case, he died while attending a small party, the arrest report said.
Witnesses said the party started at one residence and people went to the residence of Slover. Witnesses told authorities that on nine different occasions, Slover provided Mahafee crushed pills of morphine to inhale.
Witnesses also told authorities that Slover did not force Mahafee to inhale the drug.