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Man charged with homicide after OD
Another friend also faces felony for giving her pills
James Schmitz
James Schmitz

MONROE — A former Albany man faces a reckless homicide charge for the cocaine overdose death of his longtime girlfriend in April.

James R. Schmitz, 49, was arrested July 23 and jailed on a $15,000 cash bond. He faces charges in Green County Circuit Court of maintaining a drug trafficking place and first-degree reckless homicide by delivery of a drug.

At an initial hearing, Schmitz said he’s unemployed and has been staying with a friend in Madison. He couldn’t remember the exact address at first, explaining that he suffers from short-term memory loss.

He sought to get his cash bond modified to a surety bond with a co-signer, which would allow him to get out of jail without paying cash or with a greatly reduced cash bond.

Judge Thomas Vale said he would consider modifying the bond with a co-signer because it demonstrates a defendant has ties to the community and is more likely to show up for court hearings. But, Vale added, he would want to speak with the co-signer first before approving any changes.

“If nobody’s willing to co-sign, then I don’t know if (Schmitz) has strong contacts in the county,” Vale said.

At a subsequent hearing, Schmitz’s Narcotics Anonymous sponsor spoke with Vale and agreed to sign a $10,000 surety bond. Schmitz’s roommate also signed the surety bond.

Schmitz got out of jail July 31 and was due back in court for a preliminary hearing Aug. 4. Conditions of his bond include staying with his current roommate in Madison and not leaving the counties of Dane, Green and Jefferson without prior court approval.

The case stems from an investigation into the overdose of a 46-year-old Albany woman on April 20. She was taken by ambulance in the early morning hours from the home she shared with Schmitz on South Water Street in Albany and intubated at a Madison hospital. She was pronounced dead the same day.

According to the criminal complaint, her family contacted police with concerns that Schmitz routinely bought her crack cocaine or helped her go buy it. She had overdosed on the drug less than a year earlier but was revived.

Police met with Schmitz for an interview the day after she died.

Schmitz said he and his girlfriend had been together since 2013, when he met her at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and became her sponsor. He described himself as a recovered drug addict and said she still struggled with a crack cocaine addiction, smoked marijuana and also used his pain medication.

Schmitz told police on the day before her death she was experiencing bad anxiety and asked him to go get crack cocaine for her but he refused. He said she got angry but eventually calmed down.

When police asked when his girlfriend last had crack cocaine, Schmitz “took time to think of the answer” and then said she had smoked crack on April 16, according to an investigator’s report. Schmitz told the investigator he drove her to Madison that day and she got $20 worth of crack from a dealer at the Burger King on Park Street.

On the day before she died, Schmitz said, his girlfriend complained of stomach pains and anxiety, took medications and fell down several times, injuring herself.  At one point, he helped her get into a wheelchair because she was falling so often. She then “punched him in the face” and when he asked her what she was doing, she told him she didn’t know what was going on and asked him to help her get in bed.

Earlier in the day, they visited friends in Monroe, where Schmitz said one of their friends gave her two prescription pills to help with her anxiety.

That friend, 57-year-old Billy Joe Grinnell, has his initial appearance Aug. 17 on a felony charge of dispensing a prescribed medication without a prescription. According to the criminal complaint, Grinnell admitted to giving her his duloxetine, an anti-depression and nerve pain medication, but that he “felt bad giving it to her because he knew he shouldn’t.”

Grinnell also told police Schmitz had talked about buying crack cocaine for his girlfriend in the past and that when the couple left Grinnell’s home that afternoon, they indicated they were going to Madison to get some.

Schmitz was “insistent” that he did not help her get cocaine after April 16. However, police say a warrant on his cellphone and on his Google data shows his device was in the Madison area in the 24 hours before his girlfriend’s overdose and that he had a text conversation with someone planning a drug transaction.

An autopsy found overall bruising and scratches consistent with falling as well as intestinal issues that indicated intravenous drug abuse. It attributed her cause of death to “a toxicologic process, specifically involving cocaine.”