BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WFXG) - The Burke County Sheriff's Office was called to the residence of John Cates of Waynesboro. When officers arrived on scene they found Cates deceased due to a possible overdose.

After investigation, the sheriff's office says the death of Cates led to significant legal action. Charlie Wren Daniel, 43 and John Ryan Phillips, 32 both of Waynesboro have been charged under the new Georgia law called "Austin's Law." 

Named in memory of Austin Walters, a victim of a fentanyl overdose, the law establishes felony charges for individuals who unintentionally cause the death of another by knowingly manufacturing or distributing substances containing fentanyl, misrepresenting them as controlled substances. Austin's Law was signed into effect by Governor Brian Kemp on April 30, 2024.

Both Daniel and Phillips are being held at the Burke County Detention Center and are charged with their alleged involvement in Cate's death.

Daniel is also charged with:

  • Possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
  • 4 Counts of Possession of a schedule II drug with intent to distribute (Fentanyl, Hydrocodone 10 mg, Amphetamine/Dextromethamphetamine 30 mg, and Hydrocodone 5 mg.)
  • 1 count of possession of a schedule IV drug with intent to distribute (Alprazolam 1 mg)
  • Aggravated Involuntary manslaughter causing fentanyl overdose death

Phillips is also charged with: 

  •  Aggravated Involuntary manslaughter causing fentanyl overdose

The sheriff's office says more charges may come as the investigation continues.

The BCSO says Austin's Law sends a powerful message that Georgia stands untied against the devastation caused by fentanyl and those who profit from its illicit distribution.

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