Reckless homicide charged
Case involves fentanyl overdose
Tyler A. Kuhnke of New London is charged with first-degree reckless homicide in the fentanyl overdose death of Johnathan D. Ernst.
Kuhnke, 26, was charged in Outagamie County Circuit Court Monday, Sept. 11. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 17.
Kuhnke was ordered held on a $100,000 cash bond during his initial court appearance.
A report from the Outagamie County Coroner’s Office completed on Aug. 30 states 23-year-old Ernst of New London died on June 4 as a result of fentanyl toxicity.
According to the criminal complaint:
On June 4, four New London police officers responded to an apartment at 736 E. Beacon Ave. for a report of a possible overdose.
Officer Tom Algiers determined Ernst was deceased upon officers’ arrival.
A woman present at the apartment told Officer Cheri Johnson she discovered Ernst was unresponsive when she woke up before 9 a.m. and could not wake him.
Investigator Nick Kamba collected a white plate containing aluminum foil as evidence. Wrapped in the foil was “a hard, dark, purple and green colored chunk of material.” This material would later test inconclusive for heroin but, upon a re-test, positive for fentanyl.
The woman at the apartment told Detective Chase Schroeder that the evening of June 3, she woke up from a nap to Ernst and Kuhnke discussing how Ernst could make money off selling heroin that Kuhnke had for him. They were weighing drugs, she said.
The woman said she had seen rocks of drugs laid out on two plates in separate foils, one for selling and the other for Ernst’s personal use. Ernst used his personal rock.
The woman told Schroeder the men left for a house on Division Street around 6:30 or 7 p.m. After Ernst returned, he was high and lethargic from the drugs.
Between 6 p.m. and midnight Ernst did three lines of drugs, the woman later told police.
The woman and Ernst watched TV and fell asleep on the couch. When the woman woke up around 3:30 a.m., Ernst was still breathing, but she could not wake him.
She seated Ernst upright and poured water on him but he still did not wake up. She said when Ernst overdosed another time and water did not wake him, he eventually came out of it. She went back to bed without calling 911, a decision she told police she later regretted.
When she woke up that morning, Ernst was pale and cold to the couch. Her mother came over and confirmed he was dead.
Schroeder spoke with the woman again on June 6 and asked how she knew Ernst overdosed on drugs that came from Kuhnke.
She told Schroeder on the night of June 3, when she woke up from her nap, she saw Kuhnke hand Ernst a package that she believed to contain heroin. She said Kuhnke talked up the quality of the product and said he could hook up Ernst with more.
Kuhnke gave Ernst a sample to snort, and Ernst confirmed he was satisfied with it. The two then took off for the house on Division Street.