Women charged with murder in overdose death of former WWU student, 19

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 25, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - Two Bellingham women face second-degree murder charges for allegedly selling a 19-year-old man a lethal dose of heroin so they could steal his credit card.

On a Saturday morning in early October neighbors found a young man - clean-shaven, dressed in a black Columbia jacket and black Converse low-top shoes - on his left side unresponsive in Franklin Park. Paramedics couldn't revive him.

A crime scene investigator found and photographed a single needle puncture in the man's arm.

The dead man had no wallet, no ID and no cellphone. Police sent out a public notice hoping someone could identify him.

Sixteen hours later, two roommates confirmed the man's name: William Viktor Litvin, 19, who moved here from Chelan to study at Western Washington University. He hadn't enrolled in classes since spring 2013.

Detectives retraced Litvin's steps in the hours before his death.

On Friday night, Oct. 4, he had been with friends drinking beer and taking cocaine, according to new charging papers filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. One roommate told police he went to bed a little after midnight, and at that point Litvin was still hanging out with friends in the living room.

According to the charges, Litvin left later and met two women - Lucy Lillian Pearson, 33, and Nichole Star Coggins, 27 - in Franklin Park. It's unclear if Litvin knew the women before that morning, said Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran.

Coggins later claimed Litvin asked them for heroin. She texted Pearson at 4:17 a.m.

"baby getting him so high he passes out or knock him out and we will hit the atm," she wrote, according to the charges.

Police would later recognize Pearson and Coggins from an ATM photo time-stamped 4:19 a.m. It showed Litvin withdrawing cash, with the women standing nearby, at the Whatcom Educational Credit Union on Holly Street, according to the charges.

They walked back to the park together, shot up "30 units" of heroin and looked at the stars, according to the prosecutor's affidavit. (McEachran wasn't sure Monday what a "unit" amounts to in street speak.) Litvin doubled his total dose a half-hour later. As he nodded off, Pearson took his bank card, according to the charges. Coggins said she propped Litvin on his left side so he wouldn't choke on vomit. She claimed she checked his pulse and made sure he was breathing before leaving.

Litvin died that morning from heart and lung failure, due to a fatal mix of opiates, cocaine and marijuana, according to an autopsy.

Security footage showed Pearson and Coggins using Litvin's credit card at a McDonald's, a car wash and a Chevron station. They racked up more than $1,000 in charges in two days, according to the court charges.

Superior Court Commissioner Doug Hyldahl set Pearson's bail at $1 million Monday, Feb. 24. Authorities have arrested Coggins, too, in Eastern Washington. For now she's been held in Yakima County Jail.

Under state law, both women can be charged with second-degree murder because prosecutors believe Litvin died in the commission of another felony: second-degree theft. They're also accused of identity theft.

Pearson's felony history stretches back to the late '90s. She's been convicted of fourth-degree assault with a sexual motivation, harassment, unlawful possession of a firearm, domestic violence crimes and third-degree theft. She received a sentence of two years and five months for a home burglary in 2009.

Coggins had been charged with one felony in the past - for siphoning gas from a church van, then assaulting a night watchman in her getaway - but she pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Dispatcher Blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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