2 men go on trial in Clarion overdose death case

Two men went on trial Wednesday for their alleged roles in the drug overdose death of a Clarion man in 2018, and Clarion County District Attorney Drew Welsh told the jury he would build a “chain of evidence” against Spencer Gene Rudolph and Aaron Ernest Johnson.

Rudolph, 24, of Shippenville, and Johnson, 32, of Pittsburgh, face a felony charge of drug delivery resulting in death in the November 2018 overdose death of William Stout of Clarion.

Spencer and Rudolph, who rejected a plea agreement earlier, are co-defendants in the trial.

Welsh called Stout’s on again, off again fiancee, Tanya Brook, as his first witness. At the time of his death, Stout was renting a second-floor garage apartment from Brook’s family at East 8th Avenue in Clarion.

Brook said she had tried to help Stout with his drug problem, which is why he had moved into the apartment.

She said that on Nov. 19, 2018, she didn’t see Stout although she sent him several text messages that went unanswered. She said that as she was taking her son to school the next morning she noticed “Billy” had not left for work.

She said when she returned home she went into the apartment to check on him. After searching the apartment she said she heard water running and went into the bathroom.

“He was laying in the tub just like he was sleeping. I saw blood coming from his mouth and knew he was gone,” she said.

Brook said she ran out of the apartment shouting “He’s dead.” Her mother called the police.

Following Brook’s testimony, she remained in the courtroom next to Stout’s father, Bob Stout, for the remainder of the day.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Eric Vey from Erie testified that the cause of death was “fentanyl toxicity” based on blood samples obtained during the autopsy. He said the level of fentanyl was seven times above the lower level of lethality.

Clarion police Chief and Clarion County Chief Detective William Peck took the stand and walked the jury through an extensive investigation that extended into Clarion, Jefferson, Elk and Allegheny counties and the City of Pittsburgh.

Peck detailed the investigation into what Welsh called “a criminal organization.”

Peck said “runners”, which included Rudolph, would be sent to Allegheny County to purchase large amounts of heroin and fentanyl from the supplier, identified as Johnson.

These controlled substances were then transported to Elk County and distributed throughout Elk, Jefferson, and Clarion counties, Peck testified.

Welsh introduced into evidence 80 items, photos and videotapes.

Peck said he obtained the videos from several Sheetz stores where drug buys were staged. About two-thirds of the items were seized when a search warrant was served on Johnson’s Monroeville home, and items seized included drug paraphernalia, stamp bags and multiple phones, Peck said.

Johnson was carrying three cell phones when he was arrested, Peck said.

Peck had worked with the Monroeville police department and personally had Johnson under surveillance, including a trip to a Pittsburgh halfway house where Johnson was enrolled for a DUI conviction, Peck said.

Peck detailed how each of the lower level dealers were arrested and then cooperated with law enforcement.

Peck also testified about the two interviews he had with Rudolph, who Peck said not only gave the police information but helped set up a “buy bust” which resulted in another arrest.

In addition to Rudolph and Johnson, the following individuals were also charged in connection with William Stout’s death: Joseph David Hoffman, 33, of St. Marys; William A. Fourness Jr., 31, of Weedville; Kasey M. Eidinger, 29, of Ridgway; Ryan Ritchie Gleixner, 34, of St. Marys; and Sadie Rose Eisenman, 31, of Shippenville.

Fourness entered a guilty plea in November 2019 to one felony count of drug delivery resulting in death. He is lodged at the SCI Forest state prison.

Eidinger is scheduled to appear for a plea hearing in Clarion County on Aug. 26.

The cases against Eisenman, Hoffman and Gleixner are making their way through the court system.