Three Springfield men sentenced to lengthy prison terms for conspiracy to distribute nearly 84 pounds of Fentanyl

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Three Springfield, Mo., men were sentenced in federal court today for their roles in a conspiracy that distributed nearly 38 kilograms (83.7 pounds) of fentanyl in southwest Missouri and resulted in several overdose deaths.

Darryl Turner, also known as “D,” 59, Elmer E. Freeman, also known as “Duck,” 56, and Robert D. Huddleston, 49, were sentenced in separate appearances before U.S. Chief District Judge Beth Phillips. Turner was sentenced to 23 years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Freeman was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison without parole. Huddleston was sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole.

Turner and Freeman each pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in Greene County from Jan. 31, 2019, to May 18, 2020. Huddleston pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the distribution of fentanyl.

Co-defendant James D. Collins, also known as “Red,” 49, of Battlefield, Mo., was the leader of the drug-trafficking conspiracy. Collins transported at least 300 grams of fentanyl by vehicle from either St. Louis, Mo., or Chicago, Illinois, to Springfield twice a week. Collins then distributed fentanyl to co-conspirators, including Turner, who is described in court documents as Collins’s right-hand man. Turner distributed fentanyl to Freeman, who then distributed fentanyl to others.

During the time of the conspiracy, according to court documents, Turner was participating in the Greene County, Mo., drug court program. One call intercepted by investigators revealed Turner conducting fentanyl business with Collins while he was simultaneously on the computer completing tasks associated with the drug court program.

According to court documents, Collins is responsible for the distribution of 37.8 kilograms of fentanyl. Multiple overdose deaths occurred related to Collins’s distribution of fentanyl. After he was incarcerated in the Greene County Jail, Collins bragged to his cellmate about multiple overdoses caused by the drugs he was distributing. Court documents cite three individuals, who are not identified by name, who overdosed and died.

For example, in March 2020, Freeman sold fentanyl (supplied by Turner) to Randi Highfill, who in turn, distributed the fentanyl to an individual identified in court documents as “J.G.” J.G. died, and Highfill pleaded guilty in state court to involuntary manslaughter and delivery of a controlled substance in connection with this incident. On Oct. 22, 2019, another individual identified in court documents as “J.W.” overdosed and died.

Collins was sentenced on June 21, 2023, to 30 years in federal prison without parole. Ten defendants in this case have been sentenced and two defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

According to court documents, Collins led a conspiracy that was distributing significant amounts of fentanyl-laced with an assortment of other dangerous substances, including xylazine. The DEA recently issued a Public Safety Alert warning about the newly widespread threat of fentanyl mixed with xylazine. Xylazine, also known as “Tranq,” is a powerful sedative that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for veterinary use. Because xylazine is not an opioid, naloxone (Narcan) does not reverse its effects. As a result, xylazine and fentanyl drug mixtures place users at a higher risk of suffering a fatal drug poisoning. Moreover, people who inject drug mixtures containing xylazine also can develop severe wounds, including necrosis—the rotting of human tissue—that may lead to amputation.

Lab results indicate that fentanyl seized from Collins’s residence contained fentanyl, tramadol, cocaine, and xylazine. Fentanyl seized from one of his co-conspirators contained fentanyl, tramadol, and xylazine.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica R. Eatmon and Cameron A. Beaver. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Springfield, Mo., Police Department, the Greene County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, and the Phelps County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department.