Three arrested and warning issued following suspected overdose death of Lummi woman

Three people were arrested Tuesday, Oct. 1, in connection with the Monday death of a Lummi Nation member. Her apparent opioid overdose led U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran to issue a warning “about these potentially deadly pills,” that were distributed on the Lummi Reservation and in Bellingham nightclubs.

“Right now we don’t know whether the pills are directly connected to the death,” Moran said in a Department of Justice press release. “However, anyone buying street pills that appear to be oxycodone 30s — like those described in this case — could be risking his or her life by ingesting them.”

According to the release, the woman was found unresponsive in her home on the Lummi Reservation Monday, and she could not be revived with Narcan and died. Lab analysis of the pills is underway to determine if they are tainted with a substance such as fentanyl. The woman’s identity was not released, but Lummi Nation Police Chief Robert Wilson told The Bellingham Herald she was 30 years old.

The pills were sold to “those associated with nightclubs in Bellingham, as well as on the Lummi Reservation,” the release stated.

“The concern is the identification of what appears to be fentanyl, a potentially lethal synthetic opioid, disguised as the counterfeit oxycodone, and the danger that this type of drug poses to the community as a whole,” a release from the Lummi Indian Business Council stated.

The Lummi Nation Police Department and the FBI worked together to investigate the woman’s death and what caused it, according to the releases.

That investigation led to Tony Lee Williams, 33, being charged in federal court Tuesday for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of heroin with intent to distribute, according to U.S. District Court Western District of Washington documents.

According to the Department of Justice release, Williams sold pills to a brother and sister, who distributed them to others. Pills ingested by the woman who died were reportedly linked to Williams.

Nathan Allen Cultee Jr., 35, was booked into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of homicide late Monday, according to jail records, while Tiffany Lynn Rowe Cultee, 31, was booked on suspicion of homicide and criminal accomplice early Tuesday.

In a search of Williams’ Birchwood neighborhood apartment, law enforcement found approximately 38 grams of a white powder suspected to be cocaine, eight grams of suspected heroin and 30 pills that appeared to be oxycodone, according to court documents. In addition to scales with residue on them, 91 rounds of Remington .380 rounds, a loaded pistol magazine and a .380 semi-automatic Super Titon pistol with a removed serial number also were recovered.

According to court documents, Williams admitted to law enforcement that he has sold oxycodone pills “for a while.” He reportedly said he had sold approximately 200 pills over “an extended period of time” for $25 each.

Williams also said that on Monday he sold pills to at least two bouncers from Bellingham-area nightclubs and to a female from the Lummi reservation, court documents state.

According to the Lummi release, most victims of overdose are unaware they are taking fentanyl, a drug that is 50- to 100-times more potent than morphine but can contain contaminants or be mislabeled when it is sold illegally.

The Lummi Nation has declared a public health crisis in 2017 in an effort to end illegal drug use on the reservation, the release said, adding that the community continues to offer medication-assisted treatment, syringe service programs and community-level Naloxone distribution.

“The drug epidemic is devastating our families, putting our children at risk and endangering our people,” the release stated.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.