Guilford County Chief District Court Judge Tom Jarrell died from “fentanyl and heroin intoxication,” what most people call a drug overdose, according to the autopsy report released by the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released Thursday, Oct. 17.
Jarrell’s death on Aug. 3 at age 56 sent shockwaves through the community, and the release of the autopsy report has as well.
According to the report, after Jarrell was found unresponsive on his bedroom floor, law enforcement found a plastic baggie with a powdered substance in his pocket and more powdered substance on a piece of paper in the bathroom, along with a pocketknife.
According to the autopsy report, there was also a possible needle puncture in his right arm.
Jarrell also had caffeine, alcohol and high blood pressure medicine in his system, according to the report.
Jarrell’s wife, Cindy Jarrell, released a statement Thursday stating, “Our family is still reeling from Tom’s sudden death. It has left a huge void in all our lives and in the community he loved. We have not had an opportunity to review the autopsy, but nothing it can tell us will bring him back or alter our deep love and affection for him.”
Jarrell had been a Guilford County District Court judge since 1999, and chief District Court judge since 2016. He was a graduate of Guilford College and Campbell University School of Law. Before being appointed to the District Court bench by Gov. Jim Hunt, Jarrell was a Guilford County assistant district attorney, and prior to that had been in private practice in High Point.
Jarrell was extremely active in his profession and in his community. As chief District Court judge he established the first DWI Traffic Court in the state and he played a major role in creating the Family Justice Center in High Point. He was also instrumental in creating Street Safe, a teen driving program where law-enforcement officers teach behind the wheel training to young drivers.
Everyone has demons, vices, skeletons in the closet, or whatever you want to call it…Let’s not use this to overshadow the good things he did for Guilford Co.
My condolences go out to the family and friends of Judge Jerrell, as well as those of his community. Addiction is a disease that does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone, in any walk of life. It is a brain disorder, and no one is immune.
He sounds like he had impacted his community in a very positive way. Obtaining a DWI Court is a blessing for the entire community, behavior needs to be acknowledged and education obtained before someone with a substance use disorder has a chance of living a healthy and productive life.
I truly wish his family all the help and support that they can receive during this difficult time, they will remain in my prayers.
With loving thoughts and hope for healing,
Judge Jarrell heard many of my cases over the years I worked in local law enforcement. He was a good and fair judge, and from what I knew of him outside of court, he was also a good man.
But, this just shows how futile the “drug war” is. Criminalizing the user will never work. I fear Judge Jarrell was trapped in a place where if he admitted his use and sought help, he would have lost much of what he had earned in his professional life. So, like so many people, he was effectively unable to seek help and ended up dying as a result.
I’m not proposing a great solution to the problem, because I don’t think there really is one. But, I also don’t see any realistic net benefit to society by criminalizing the use/user of addictive drugs. I think a good place to start is using the time and resources that we do have to reduce the sale and distribution of the most damaging drugs, while also establishing programs to more effectively help the users caught in the addiction.
why would he overdose on drugs when he was taking medications to protect himself from death.
makes no sense.
looks like forced suicide to me.
How many people did this judge send to jail for possessing the same drugs be bought, used and ODed on? Just another of the outwardly moral “do as I say not as I do” crowd.
He was murdered. Where is the kit? Who was with him, he is not a user look at the guy, alcohol is his pleasure. OMG get some damn detectives that go beyond and in search of the truth instead of politics….Geez I worked prison Crime scene and investigation I can figure this one out. It was a hit.