Drug death prosecuted as involuntary manslaughter

SPENCER, W.Va. – A hiccup in the law ended in a Roane County man receiving a lesser sentence.

Thirty-four year old Todd Honaker was charged with murder in the death of his wife earlier this year. Honaker was accused of providing Rene Honaker with what was thought, at the time, to be LSD. She died as a result of using that drug.

It turned out the substance in question was a synthetic hallucinogen, not LSD.

Roane County Prosecutor Josh Downey said, “Under West Virginia law that particular synthetic hallucinogen did not qualify as a controlled substance.”

That meant the prosecutor’s office could not file murder charges, in the case, against Honaker. The only crime left was involuntary manslaughter which carries a 1-year jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

“This is the maximum jail time and fine for an involuntary manslaughter,” explained Downey.

Honaker’s accomplice, in the case, won’t be as lucky. The man who provided Honaker with the drug was 32-year-old Chad Renzelman, a chemist from Washington state.

Honaker, as part of his plea, agreed to testify against Renzelman. Because Renzelman is from out of state, the crime can be handled by the federal government which does consider synthetic hallucinogens controlled substances.

Downey said his office and the Roane County Sheriff’s Department have handed Renzelman’s case over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District for prosecution.

Downey said the state Legislature needs to close this particular loop hole in the drug laws.

“These synthetic substances, seems like every time we catch up with them by code, someone out there tweaks something, in the chemical formula, that changes the ball game,” said Downey. “It’s something I think that would be something the legislators should look at to help if this incident would occur again.”

Honaker asked the judge to be sentenced on Monday, when he entered his plea. He is currently being housed in the Central Regional Jail. Meanwhile, Renzelman remains free on bond.

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