Top Stories 2021: Six overdose deaths reported in one tragic week

A “bad batch” of fentanyl-laced cocaine led to six overdose deaths in Southold and Shelter Island towns in August, a string of tragic deaths unlike any Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said the town had seen before.

In seven days, there were eight drug overdose cases in the two towns, with all but one occurring in Southold Town. Four of the six deaths occurred on one Friday alone.

Within a week of the deaths, two men were charged in connection with the investigation. One man, 51-year-old Lavain Creighton of Greenport, is now facing manslaughter charges in connection with at least two of the deaths.

Prosecutors linked Mr. Creighton directly to death of Swainson Brown, the chef at the Pridwin Hotel on Shelter Island. Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini referred to him as “S.B.” during the media briefing and those initials were also used during Mr. Creighton’s arraignment at Southold Town Justice Court. Cell phone records show Mr. Brown called Mr. Creighton between the hours of 8:58 p.m. and 10:11 p.m. on the evening before his death. Police also recovered ferry tickets that showed Mr. Brown traveled from Shelter Island to Greenport at 9:18 p.m. Two outgoing calls to Mr. Creighton were recorded at 9:35 p.m. Mr. Brown then returned to Shelter Island, with a ferry ticket confirmed at 10 p.m.

Manslaughter charges in fatal overdose cases have been rare in Suffolk County. Mr. Sini announced manslaughter charges in March 2019 against two men for supplying heroin cut with fentanyl to a Riverhead man who fatally overdosed. It was only the third time in Suffolk County history that the charge was brought against drug dealers in connection to a fatal overdose. 

Mr. Sini and local lawmakers on Aug. 19 called for the a proposed “death by dealer” law that would allow prosecutors to charge drug dealers with homicide in cases of fatal overdoses.

Mr. Creighton is due back in court in January.