Salem man charged with dealing fentanyl in jail after inmate’s overdose death

A Salem man has been charged with trafficking fentanyl in the Marion County Jail over a year after an inmate fatally overdosed on the drug.

A grand jury indicted Samuel L. Grill, 33, on March 13 in Marion County Circuit Court on charges of delivering fentanyl, supplying contraband and possession of fentanyl. 

The charges resulted from an investigation into the death of Will Schultz, who overdosed on fentanyl in November 2022 while in jail. But drug dealers can rarely be charged under Oregon law with causing an overdose death, according to Marion County prosecutors.

The charges allege Grill smuggled fentanyl into the jail and provided the drug to another person on Nov. 23, 2022, according to the indictment. Schultz, 33, of Hillsboro, died that same day in his cell.

Grill is accused of possessing 5 grams of fentanyl while in jail at the time. The estimated lethal dose of fentanyl is about 2 milligrams, according to a July 2023 Salem police affidavit. The amount Grill is accused of possessing works out to about 2,500 lethal doses.

The accusations come after Marion County officials stayed silent for over a year about the Schultz death. A Salem Reporter investigation earlier this year found that county officials have made little effort to stop the illegal trafficking of drugs into the jail even after two inmates fatally overdosed in 2021 and 2022.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office arrested Grill last Wednesday, April 10. The agency was brought in to investigate the death and turned over their findings in late October to prosecutors.

Grill has not been charged with causing Schultz’s death.

“Oregon law is different from federal law or other states regarding how individual drug dealers can be charged for recklessly or knowingly causing the death of a user,” according to Brendan Murphy, Marion County’s chief deputy district attorney. “Simply put, Oregon law has significant legal hurdles making that extremely difficult.”

Murphy said in an email that he could not provide other details about the case due to pending prosecution.

Grill was released from the Marion County Jail without bail on April 14. His release agreement described him as “transient.”

A plea hearing is scheduled for April 19 at 8:30 a.m. at the Marion County Court Annex, 4000 Aumsville Hwy. S.E.

Grill has previously pleaded guilty to heroin possession, theft, giving false information to a peace officer and second-degree escape, according to Marion County court records. He escaped in 2020 from the Marion County Transition Center, a minimum-security alternative to jail where people work jobs or do community service.

Schultz is one of at least two inmates who have fatally overdosed in the Marion County Jail since 2021. 

Before his death, another inmate died in July 2021 after overdosing in the jail. Frederic Ferguson, 24, died in the jail of an apparent overdose of oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl which he consumed while he was in his cell. At the time, such fake pills were being distributed throughout Ferguson’s jail pod, Marion County prosecutors said in a later court filing.

County officials have made no mention of drugs being connected with Schultz’s death until now.

But his former wife, Ashley Schultz, said a detective told her soon after his death that he had overdosed on fentanyl, and that authorities almost immediately suspected other inmates of providing the drugs.

She said her former husband struggled with methamphetamine addiction since getting out of prison in 2015. 

The couple divorced in 2020, but they still cared for each other and kept in touch.

Will Schultz was most recently working in construction about a year before his death.

He came to the Marion County Jail on charges of possessing methamphetamine and a gun as a felon. He died six days after arriving.

Around 7 p.m. on Nov. 23, 2022, Schultz’s cellmate found him unresponsive in his cell and alerted deputies. The sheriff’s office made the announcement a week after Schultz died, and only after Salem Reporter sought information about his death.

Ashley Schultz said she hopes the criminal charges now brought against Grill compel him to change his life before he hurts anyone else. 

Still, she has mixed feelings about the charges.

“He’s never going to come back,” she said of her former husband, before pausing. Her voice trembled with pain. “It is good that someone gets to be held accountable, but it’s just sad that I’m still never going to see him again.”


WATCHDOG: Jail inmate overdoses continue with little action from Marion County leaders

A year later, Marion County jail death remains a mystery

Man died Nov. 23 after being found unresponsive at Marion County Jail, deputies say

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

SUPPORT OUR WORK – We depend on subscribers for resources to report on Salem with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Subscribe today to get our daily newsletters and more. Click I want to subscribe!

Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.