Friends say New London overdose victim didn't deserve to be dumped

From left, Gabrielle Fox, William Garrett and William Dietz are accused of dumping the body of Lebro Mei, 36, after he had fatally overdosed, at the former Edgerton School property in New London in May. (New London Police Department)
From left, Gabrielle Fox, William Garrett and William Dietz are accused of dumping the body of Lebro Mei, 36, after he had fatally overdosed, at the former Edgerton School property in New London in May. (New London Police Department)

Lebro Mei had struggled with addiction for years but his friends say there was nobody better to work with on a commercial fishing trip.

"You sit there at the conveyor, sorting fish by size and species for hours and hours and you talk about a lot," said Ryan Roache, a co-worker and longtime friend of Mei. "He was always coming up with a song or a story about the captain or something."

Roache said that as messed up as Mei was as a result of the drug habit he tried many times to kick, he was a genuine person who didn't deserve what happened to him on May 7, 2018.

New London police said city residents Gabrielle Fox, 38, William Dietz, 51, and William Garrett, 54, dumped Mei's body on the grounds of the former Edgerton School on Cedar Grove Avenue hours after he overdosed on heroin with fentanyl in the basement of Dietz's home at 311 Jefferson Ave.

Mei, who was 36, is survived by a brother, cousins and many friends, who held a memorial service for him at Fort Trumbull Park. A co-worker scattered his ashes at sea. 

Dietz was charged Aug. 14 with removal of a dead person, first-degree reckless endangerment, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to tamper with evidence. He is free on a $25,000 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 28.

Fox was charged Wednesday with the same crimes and had been charged during the investigation with prostitution and failure to appear in court. She was arraigned Thursday in New London Superior Court, where Judge Karyl L. Carrasquilla set her bond at $50,000 and ordered a medical watch and detoxification in prison.

Garrett, who is incarcerated, will be served with an arrest warrant when he appears in court on Sept. 5, according to police.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit written by Detective Joshua Bergeson, Fox had brought Mei and a woman named Ashley to Dietz's home the previous afternoon and they used drugs together. When Mei overdosed, Fox wanted to call 911, but Dietz wouldn't let her because he is on parole and did not want police at his house, police allege.

Connecticut has a Good Samaritan law that protects people from being prosecuted for drug possession if they call 911 to report an overdose. The law does not protect callers from other charges, such as a violation of parole.

Dietz told the police that the two women and Mei were high and he asked them to leave because he was on parole and didn't want to get in trouble. According to court records, he had several convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and driving while his license was suspended and had been sentenced in December 2016 to 18 months in prison followed by three years of probation.

Fox and the other woman left, but Dietz said he allowed Mei to stay the night because Mei had nowhere else to go, according to the affidavit. Dietz said he heard Mei snoring at times but, as the night got later, he was unable to wake him up.

Police extracted text messages from Fox's phone that indicate she and Dietz exchanged messages for hours before coming up with a plan to remove Mei's body from the basement.

"Gabby just come back, you're buddy's kinda worrying me," Dietz's initial texts said. "Don't want him to die."

Hours later, Dietz texted Fox that he was "very upset."

"This guy you brought here is in my basement and there's (expletive) all over my basement and I have to get up for work in 8 hours," the text read.

According to the warrant, Fox recruited Garrett, a friend, to bring a minivan to the home some time after 3 a.m. and told Dietz to wear "appropriate clothes." She texted that she was going to get black clothes and a hoodie.

Garrett told police that when he went into the basement at Dietz's home, Mei was in a seated position on the couch and obviously was deceased, his body cold, blue and hard to move because it was stiff.

"He stated that he grabbed one leg of Mei, Fox grabbed the other leg, and Deitz had the upper body and they carried Mei out of the back door," according to the warrant.

Garrett said they loaded Mei's body into the minivan and he and Dietz drove to the parking lot of the Edgerton school. Fox walked from Dietz's house. When they arrived, Garrett said all three of them tried getting Mei out of the minivan, but he "kind of tumbled out."

Two students who were walking to school came upon Mei's body and called police at 7:09 a.m. They said they tried to wake him but then observed that he appeared dead. Police recognized Mei at the scene, but later confirmed his identify through fingerprints. He had $400 in $100 dollar bills in his pocket but no cellphone.

During the investigation, police were able to recover surveillance video from several locations in the area. One showed the van slowing down and turning off its head lamps before pulling in to an unlit area of the parking lot. Another view showed a person walking into the parking lot toward where the van was located.  

Mei had been drifting between friends' couches and the Homeless Hospitality Center in the weeks before his death, his friends said. He had been in and out of treatment programs and at times appeared to be working hard to stay clean.

"He was in one (program) last fall," his friend Ray Pirz said. "I went on a couple of fishing trips with him and he was all high on life."

k.florin@theday.com

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