FAIRMONT -- A kidnapping and the unearthing of an interstate credit card scam have led Marion County police to reopen an investigation into an August death.
Marion County Sheriff Ron Watkins said Tuesday a captain and two detectives are checking into the Aug. 27 fatal overdose of an unnamed 24-year-old Pleasant Valley man. A pathologist will be consulted later this week concerning autopsy records, as well.
Although the death was originally ruled an accident, the fact the deceased lived in the same Marion County apartment complex as defendant William Sammy Bray III, 22, has sparked the renewed interest, he added.
"We now have information that Bray befriended this person, as well," Watkins said. "There's no way we could ever live with ourselves if we don't open it back up."
Bray and Jessica Forbes, 18, of Morgantown, are accused of a web of crimes that allegedly began with befriending James Craig Phillips, 52, through the Internet and ended with $100,000 in credit card fraud, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit a violent act.
Phillips, who confronted Bray after realizing his credit cards were stolen, was held hostage in his apartment. It is also in the same complex. He alleges Bray and Forbes plotted to kill him during the kidnapping, possibly using a faked drug overdose.
In a confession to Watkins, Bray also mentioned a heroin overdose was one of his options if he had killed Phillips.
Additionally, police have evidence Bray went on a spending spree in Morgantown two days after the overdose death, Watkins said.
Toxicology reports released Monday indicate a precise mixture of three prescription drugs caused the Aug. 27 overdose, Watkins said. Undercover police were able to purchase the same drugs, which Watkins did not identify, on the streets of Morgantown over the weekend. That confirms their local presence, he added.
Even if the overdose case does remain classified as an accident, Watkins said he was glad to have identified the drug mixture and be able to alert area physicians to what may be a new drug trend.
"This is one of those things that you have to investigate," Watkins said. "There are pieces of the puzzle laying all over this county. We just have to put them together."
Watkins also released more information about Bray's past arrests and convictions in the Tuesday afternoon press conference. In North Carolina, he served prison time after a 1997 conviction for felony grand larceny and other offenses.
Bray, whose hometown is yet unknown, also faced previous North Carolina charges of breaking and entering, obtaining property through false pretenses with forged checks, worthless checks and forgery. Watkins said Bray had plea bargained on several of the charges.
Watkins additionally said further aliases have been discovered for Bray, who also has used multiple Social Security numbers. Known names include William Phillips, David Bray and the Internet name Florida.
Bray is allegedly part of a network of people involved in the multi-state scam, Watkins said. Using the Internet and cell phones, scammers apparently share identities, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and housing.
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