Unclear if yellow pills killed locals; 1 positive for elephant tranquilizer, 1 took coke

Pills like these counterfeit Percocets were circulating in Middle Georgia in early June.
Pills like these counterfeit Percocets were circulating in Middle Georgia in early June. breaking@macon.com

Nearly two months after counterfeit pain pills that were sold on the street sickened dozens of people in Middle Georgia, it still isn’t clear whether a handful of drug-related deaths that coincided with the illnesses were caused by the same toxic yellow caplets.

A GBI laboratory recently completed toxicology tests on five locals who died in early June, and the results have been passed along to law enforcement officials.

On Thursday, The Telegraph learned that one of the deaths — that of a Macon man who died June 11 — was not linked to the phony pain pills, which were being peddled as Percocet.

The fake Percocet sold by street dealers contained what the GBI later discovered was a toxic “fentanyl analogue.”

Robert Ketchup, 34, the man who died June 11, three days after he was was found unconscious at his mother’s house in west Macon, had no fentanyl in his system, a law enforcement source told The Telegraph.

Tests, however, did find cocaine, Valium and morphine.

The first suspicious drug death in the area happened just north of Macon the morning of June 4 in south Monroe County.

A sheriff’s report describing the circumstances of the death of 21-year-old Jackson Carson Moore III said he “used marijuana, drank alcohol and took Xanax on a regular basis.”

A source told The Telegraph on Thursday that Moore had tested positive for traces of the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil, a fentanyl derivative thousands of times more powerful than heroin.

Lab results did not mention whether Moore ingested the bogus Percocet.

None of the counterfeit yellow pills were found in his possession.

“It could be the same mixture,” the source told The Telegraph, adding that it was also possible Moore died after taking some other drug.

Toxicology results for others who died during the bad-drug scare — including a man and a woman in Macon — were not available Thursday.

A GBI spokeswoman this week said the cases were still part of an “active investigation.”

Joe Kovac Jr.: 478-744-4397, @joekovacjr