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Virginia man pleads guilty in fatal overdose

It is the second murder conviction in a 33-year-old woman's death from fentanyl toxicity.

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VIRGINIA — A second man has pleaded guilty to a murder charge for supplying a Virginia woman with a fatal dose of fentanyl.

David Keith Joseph Chatman, 37, of Virginia entered the plea Friday in State District Court to a count of third-degree murder in the October 2021 death of 33-year-old Brooke Ann Miller.

A co-defendant, Torisa Sulvoris Wallace, was sentenced last month to just over 11 years in prison for his role, having pleaded guilty to the same charge.

David Keith Joseph Chatman.jpg
David Keith Joseph Chatman

Chatman also faces a presumptive prison term under state sentencing guidelines, though the terms of a plea agreement with the St. Louis County Attorney's Office allow him to argue for a departure. Judge Robert Friday ordered an investigation into Chatman's background ahead of sentencing on Dec. 20.

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."

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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.

Investigators with 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.

Torisa Sulvoris Wallace.jpg
Torisa Sulvoris 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.

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.

Wallace, 39, of Eveleth, is serving a 134-month sentence after Judge Michelle Anderson rejected his request for probation or a below-guideline prison term. St. Louis County prosecutor Chris Florey suggested that Wallace was the "catalyst" to the murder, preying on "vulnerable drug users" like Chatman and Miller for profit.

Chatman, even before entering a plea, apologized to the court for his actions. In a one-page note this spring, accompanied by a sketch of flowers, he said he initially rebuffed Miller's efforts to connect with his supplier, but eventually relented after days of her asking.

"I made a call and she got the drug and I didn't know she was going to die," Chatman wrote. "I am hurt about what happened. Please forgive me."

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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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