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Eveleth man gets 11 years in Virginia fatal overdose

As attorneys debated who was responsible for the death of Brooke Miller, a judge denied leniency for Torisa Wallace.

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VIRGINIA — An Iron Range man has been sentenced to just over 11 years in prison for supplying the fentanyl that killed a woman in October 2021.

Torisa Sulvoris Wallace, 39, of Eveleth, was one of two men to be charged in January with the death of Brooke Ann Miller, 33, of Virginia. He pleaded guilty in May to third-degree murder.

Torisa Sulvoris Wallace.jpg
Torisa Sulvoris Wallace

Judge Michelle Anderson on Monday denied Wallace's request to depart from sentencing guidelines, imposing a 134-month prison term.

According to court documents, Miller's boyfriend found her unresponsive on the floor of their apartment at Ivy Manor, 201 N. Fifth Ave. W., just after 8:30 p.m. Oct. 19. First responders attempted to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at the scene from what a medical examiner later described as the "toxic effects of fentanyl."

Police said they found a powdery substance, which was later confirmed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to contain fentanyl. Officers also spoke with David Keith Joseph Chatman, another resident of the apartment building, who had stopped by to ask about Miller and indicated she had been looking for heroin, according to a criminal complaint.

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Investigators with the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force — since renamed the Lake Superior Violent Offender Task Force — followed up with Chatman the next day. He allegedly stated that she had asked him for heroin a few days prior, but he turned her down. He said she asked again on Oct. 19, so he contacted his supplier — later identified by police as Wallace.

Wallace and Miller went to Chatman's apartment, where Miller paid $40 for what Chatman said he believed was heroin, according to the complaint. Chatman indicated Wallace produced the substance from a plastic bag and placed a small amount on a dollar bill; Miller then took it and left.

David Keith Joseph Chatman.jpg
David Keith Joseph Chatman

While executing search warrants Oct. 21, task force investigators said they recovered from Wallace's person a plastic bag containing a substance that later tested positive for fentanyl. Cellphone records also allegedly showed Miller messaging Chatman at 2:24 p.m. to ask, "Can u help me get some of that I was asking about that day?" The complaint states that Chatman responded, "Yes. How much?" and then called Wallace.

With the help of surveillance video and bank records, investigators said they were able to determine Miller left Ivy Manor at 3:13 p.m. and withdrew $40 from a bank. She then returned to Ivy Manor, briefly stopping at Chatman's apartment before going to her own unit, where no one else was seen entering until her boyfriend arrived home five hours later.

Defense attorney Derek Hansen said Wallace quickly pleaded guilty, remained cooperative with the judicial process and maintained significant support from his family. Asking the court to place Wallace on probation or impose a below-guideline prison term, he said the defendant "has an elementary understanding of controlled substances at best" and suggested Chatman was "the catalyst for the transaction."

"Mr. Wallace is serious about acknowledging his mistakes, accepting responsibility and reformation," Hansen told the court. "Simply put, Mr. Wallace wants a change to prove to this court he is not his criminal history. Mr. Wallace implores this court to give him an opportunity because he knows he can succeed. Given the right programming and structure Mr. Wallace has every change of a stable life for himself and his family."

But St. Louis County prosecutor Chris Florey said Wallace "sold fentanyl to a vulnerable user for his own profit," lied to investigators and sought to place blame on others. He said family support has failed to deter Wallace from an extensive criminal history that includes violence and drugs.

"If anyone was the catalyst to this murder, it was (Wallace)," Florey said. "Defendant knowingly possessed fentanyl, learned vulnerable drug users — defendant Chatman and the victim — wished to obtain heroin from him, traveled to Ivy Manor to sell fentanyl, and completed the transaction for his own profit. Defendant's subsequent communications established that this was not a one-time occurrence; rather he sold drugs to the community."

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With Anderson denying the departure, Wallace must serve at least two-thirds of the term, nearly 7 ½ years, before he is eligible for supervised release. With credit for time served, he has an anticipated release date of April 2029.

Chatman has pleaded not guilty to his third-degree murder charge. His next court appearance is set for Oct. 10.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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