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STATE OF AFFAIRS: Minnesota Authorities: Arrests in Connection with Overdose Deaths More Common

Appeals Court Says DUI Warrant Can Now Test for Drugs

PAUL, Minnesota – The Minnesota employment rate has started 2016 strong by adding about 9000 jobs for the second month in a row, and it seems that’s not all that’s growing in the state. Authorities say there has been an uptick in charges related to overdose deaths.


Police in Luth charged 22 year old Kayla Jo Vranish with murder after allegedly selling heroin to 62 year old nurse Kathy Ann Davis, who was found dead in her home from an apparent overdose. Vranish was arraigned just last week in the case, which took place in November of 2014. With prosecutors cracking down on dealers, three other suspects have been charged with murder in northeast Minnesota in the past year.

Kayla Jo Vranish

Tests show the heroin was laced with Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller 30-50 times more potent than heroin, and can be deadly in even the smallest doses, about the size of a few grains of salt. Vranish’s bail was set at $125,000.


Authorities say that police across the country are attributing the rise in overdose deaths to fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent painkiller and anesthetic usually prescribed to treat extreme pain during cancer treatment or after surgery.

Kathy Davis
Kathy Davis

There have been approximately 122 reported cases of drug-related overdoses in the Duluth area over the past year. This does not include area hospital or self admits or unreported overdose incidents.


Reports say Kathy’s husband, Andrew told police he found his wife purple, holding a needle and rubber tourniquet. Police made the connection to Vranish through cell phone records. Kathy, a grandmother, earned her LPN Degree from St. Scholastica and worked at St. Mary’s Hospital. Her husband was reportedly aware of her heroin addiction, and had been trying to urge her to stop.


The Carlton County Sheriff’s Department also assisted in an overdose death investigation which ultimately led to charges of 3rd degree murder last year. In that case, Robert Todd Ferguson, 51, of Cloquet, was arrested in the City of Cloquet based on allegations that Ferguson provided a Fentanyl patch to his daughter’s boyfriend Paul Duane Mrosla, 25, who died January 15 of an apparent overdose.

Robert Ferguson
Robert Ferguson

Meanwhile, a State Appeals Court ruled last week that police can not only test blood alcohol levels with a DWI warrant, but that also gives them the right to test for drugs. This comes after multiple cases of DWI that were thrown out after no alcohol was found in their system. With the increasing use of prescription opioids and other drugs, the test is a necessary step in driver safety, as the issue has evolved from simply alcohol-related crashes and stops.


The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe recently met for several hours with Senator Al Franken (D-MN) to discuss opiate abuse and talk to him about the issue, which has plagued reservations. According to the tribe, Senator Franken agreed with them that a culturally based treatment center in the state could assist lawmakers as they look to partner with tribes.


The Band’s Health and Human Services Commissioner, Sam Moose, was at the meeting and said that Senator Franken was “interested in finding a solution and he said that tribes would be a part of that solution”.


Vertava Health met Senator Franken, a 5 time Emmy winner from his work on the popular series Saturday Night Live, and writer of the movie “When A Man Loves a Woman” – a serious take on the family disease of addiction, in October of last year. He is currently working on his own memoir, which is currently untitled and scheduled for release in 2017.

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