Like thousands of men and women in the Knoxville area, Joseph Kellen Bristow struggled with opiate addiction for years.
His struggle ended as so many others have ended — in death.
Now, 18 months after an overdose of fentanyl stopped his breathing forever at the age of 30, the woman who allegedly supplied him with the drug is facing criminal charges for his death.
Lindsay Allyson Robinson, 38, was named in a three-count presentment issued last week by a Knox County grand jury. She faces one count each of reckless homicide, the illegal sale of fentanyl and the illegal delivery of fentanyl, according to court records.
She is being held at the Knox County jail in lieu of $25,000 bond and also has a “hold” on her from Blount County.
The grand jury records don’t provide any details of Bristow’s relationship with Robinson. They state only that she did “unlawfully and reckless kill” Bristow on Dec. 2, 2019, the same day she’s accused of both selling and delivering fentanyl.
Mimi Bristow, the victim’s mother, said Thursday she hadn’t been notified that someone had been arrested for her son’s death until she was contacted by Hard Knox Wire. She also said that she’d never heard of Robinson before.
“I don’t really know who was involved,” said Mimi Bristow, who lives in Maryville. “My son had struggles with drug addiction for many years. He had been living in a halfway house and had been clean for 14 months. About two weeks before he overdosed, a person at the halfway house called me and said he was doing stuff again …. He was dealing with some unsavory people and doing drugs again. I don’t know who he interacted with.”
Mimi Bristow said she wasn’t sure how she felt about the news of Robinson’s arrest.
Her opinions on drug addiction have softened since her son died and she’s learned more about the way that opiate dependence affects the brain.
“That’s just a shame,” she said when told of the charges faced by Robinson. “Before my son died I would have thought she was a scumbag, but now….I’m sorry that’s where her life is.”
She continued: “You know, no one says, ‘I want to be an addict.’ No one says they want to lose their home, to lose their family, to lose their friends, to lose everything.”
According to the autopsy report prepared by the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, he was last seen alive by one of his roommates about 7:15 a.m. Dec. 3, 2019 in the home they were sharing in North Knox County.
“The friends told law enforcement they believed the decedent had recently relapsed to using heroin,” the report said. “The decedent was last seen alive ….. by one of the residents when they got up their son for school. The decedent was snoring at that time. The friend went back to check on the decedent after coming home and found him unresponsive.”
There is no mention of Robinson in the report, and court records provide no clues as to how law enforcement determined that she was involved in his death.
Dr. Christopher Lochmuller, a pathologist, ruled that Bristow had died from “fentanyl intoxication.”
Bristow was one of 293 people to die in Knox County of a drug overdose (usually fentanyl) in 2019. That number grew to 413 fatal overdoses in 2020. As of Thursday, the number of overdose fatalities in Knox this year stood at 209.
Fentanyl is a highly potent narcotic painkiller used for decades in hospitals and for outpatient chronic pain treatment. Because of its cost and strength, organized crime groups began cutting heroin with it several years ago, leading to tens of thousands of overdose deaths across the country.
In Knox County, prosecutors and police have sought to curb the opiate epidemic by bringing homicide charges against those who provide overdose victims with the drugs they kill themselves with, usually friends or street-level dealers.
Robinson is scheduled to be arraigned June 21 before Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steven Sword.
Reckless homicide is a Class D felony that normally carries a two- to 12-year sentence, while each of the drug charges is a Class B felony carrying an 8- to 30-year prison term, according to state law.
J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published on June 18, 2021