Kuhnke accused in fentanyl death
By Scott Bellile
A New London homicide case involving a fentanyl overdose is moving from state to federal court.
Outagamie County Judge Mark McGinnis on Oct. 6 dismissed Tyler A. Kuhnke’s first-degree reckless homicide case on prosecutor Peter Hahn’s motion.
Now Kuhnke’s case will likely be held in Green Bay before Chief Judge William Griesbach, according to Nicholas Kamba, the detective for New London Police Department who investigated the homicide.
Kuhnke, 27, New London, was charged with first-degree reckless homicide on Sept. 11, for the overdose death of Johnathan D. Ernst, 23, New London.
Kuhnke did not enter a plea before his case was dismissed in Outagamie County Circuit Court.
He has been arraigned in federal court, Kamba said. Kuhnke’s pre-trial conference is scheduled for early December. If he pleads not guilty, then a jury trial is slated for mid-December.
His case is moving to federal court, New London Police Chief Jeff Schlueter said, because other drug dealers within the supply chain who transcend county or state lines may be tied to the case.
Kamba said he believes another person not directly involved with Kuhnke has been charged in federal court. Kamba did not provide a name because he did not know if the person has been indicted or if their case is related.
Kuhnke has been held at Brown County Jail under federal custody since Oct. 12.
Unlike a case at the state level, Schlueter and Kamba said federal cases have mandatory minimum sentences if the suspect is convicted.
At a minimum, a first offense drug homicide carries a 20-year sentence.
According to the criminal complaint from the homicide case:
On June 4, New London police responded to an apartment at 736 E. Beacon Ave. for a report of a possible overdose. Ernst was deceased upon officers’ arrival.
Kamba collected as evidence aluminum foil containing a rock substance that would later test positive for fentanyl.
A woman present at the apartment told police that on June 3 she woke up from a nap to find Ernst and Kuhnke weighing drugs. They were discussing how they could make money off selling drugs that she said Kuhnke provided him.
Ernst was also sampling the drug, which the woman had believed was heroin.
That night Ernst was high and did three lines of drugs, she said.
She and Ernst fell asleep on the couch. When the woman woke up at 3:30 a.m., she said Ernst was breathing but unresponsive.
After failing to wake him, she went to bed without calling 911 because she told police Ernst had survived an overdose before. When she returned a few hours later, he was not alive.