Heroin overdose kills man in Benzie County

BEULAH — Benzie County’s struggle with fatal heroin overdoses continues.

Authorities confirmed Justin Smith, 23, of Benzonia, was found dead Wednesday night of a heroin overdose. Law enforcement officials arrested a suspect in Smith’s death, the fourth heroin-related fatality in the county since 2011.

On Friday, Mark Lee Maxwell of Oak Park was arraigned in Benzie County’s 85th District Court on two counts in the case: delivery of heroin, less than 50 grams; and delivery of cocaine, less than 50 grams. The charges would normally carry a maximum sentence of 20 years, but since Maxwell has had three or more previous felonies, he faces life
imprisonment.

He is being held on a $1 million bond, 10 percent cash.

“Unfortunately, there’s a market for it,” said Benzie County Prosecutor Sara Mason, noting the county has seen several recent heroin-related arrests.

Smith was found dead at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday in a home near Alysworth Road in Benzonia Township.

Sheriff Ted Schendel said a male suspect was arrested Thursday. The suspect faces a charge of delivery of heroin causing death and will be arraigned in 85th District Court.

Schendel said he could not provide information on the suspect’s age or address.

The Benzie County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation in conjunction with the Traverse Narcotics Team. Evidence was gathered at a Benzonia Township home following the death.

“A lot of things fell in place,” Schendel said.

TNT detectives could not be reached for comment.

Schendel said the sheriff’s department and TNT are actively involved in tracking heroin in Benzie County, but can’t always stop people from making harmful decisions.

“The team is well aware of all the players that were involved in this,” he said. “Our job is to go after the drugs and educate people as much as we can.”

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