RAHWAY, NJ — The Rahway man who admitted to distributing a batch of fentanyl-laced crack cocaine that killed three people and hospitalized numerous others during a span of a single day in 2017 has been sentenced to 13 years in state prison for the crime, acting Union County Prosecutor Jennifer Davenport announced Tuesday.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid many degrees of magnitude more powerful than heroin, was found in the toxicology of fewer than 20: of Union County’s fatal overdose victims in 2015, but that figure jumped to more than 80% by 2018.
Still, this case marked one of the first times local law enforcement encountered the drug mixed with crack cocaine.
George Rayford, 39, pleaded guilty in January to three counts of strict liability for a drug-induced death, a first-degree crime, for causing the deaths of 41-year-old Nicole Taylor, 53-year-old Kacina Vanderburg, and 67-year-old Harold Johnston, all Rahway residents.
A six-week investigation revealed that Rayford distributed the lethal drugs out of his home in Rahway on Dec. 22, 2017, according to Union County Homicide Task Force Supervisor Michael Henn, the Assistant Prosecutor who handled the case.
The investigation – initiated by the Rahway Police Department and Detective James Crowell, and later expanded to involve the Union County Homicide Task Force, Union County Sheriff’s Office, and Woodbridge Police Department – revealed that in addition to Taylor, Vanderburg, and Johnston, an unknown number of others also overdosed on the drugs that night, but survived, with several revived by the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, Henn said.
Rayford was arrested at his home without incident in February 2018 and lodged in Union County Jail. A Union County grand jury produced a 13-count indictment in the case about three months later.
Rayford must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before the possibility of parole under New Jersey’s No Early Release Act, according to the terms set down by state Superior Court Judge Candido Rodriguez, Jr., who prior to sentencing also denied Rayford’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea in this case.