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Overdose Death Investigator Appointed for Broome County

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The newly-created position of an investigator to look into overdose deaths for Broome County has been filled.  On Wednesday, District Attorney Steve Cornwell and Binghamton Mayor Rich David announced Jeffrey Wagner will take on that job.

"Our fight against heroin and opioids is unprecedented in the history of Broome County," said Cornwell, "Now we have an experienced and skilled investigator dedicated to seeking justice for our community, working with families of the deceased, and ridding the streets of more dangerous drug dealers."

According to the DA's Office, Wagner's duties will include:

  • Investigating all overdose deaths in Broome County
  • Maintaining accurate records of all overdose deaths
  • Coordinating with police agencies to investigate circumstances surrounding overdose deaths
  • Communicating with family members of the deceased person
  • Gathering intelligence from overdose cases to assist law enforcement in further investigations
  • Recommending criminal charges in appropriate cases

"He will recommend those charges, whether it be a drug sale, or in certain cases we will be able to put together a criminally-negligent homicide case or manslaughter case," said Cornwell.

Cornwell said having Wagner fulfill this position can help authorities go after drug dealers, better understand what's going on with drug trafficking, and target areas where these deaths and sales are occurring.

"It's extremely important if you're going to fight a problem, to know the extent of the problem.  This will allow us to gather the information in real-time and investigate cases in which the people die from drug overdoses as crimes, because they are crimes," said Cornwell.

Wagner has served the Binghamton Police Department for the last 20 years, where he spent a majority of those years working as a detective.  He retires from the agency this week.  Before his work in Binghamton, Wagner also served as a deputy for the Tioga County Sheriff's Office for six years and in the U.S. Air Force for four years. 

Wagner said he is honored to start his new role next Monday.

"I hope the end result is we save some lives.  I think a lot of young people and a lot of middle-aged people are dying, needlessly.  If that means putting people in jail, that means putting people in jail.  We need to save lives," said Wagner.

A stack of overdose death files at the DA's Office, dating back to 2014, are ready to be examined by Wagner.

According to officials, the total cost of Wagner's part-time role is $36,792 -- through the end of 2017.  They say the City of Binghamton is funding 60 percent of the costs and the DA's Office will pay the remaining 40 percent -- using traffic diversion funding. 

This announcement comes after Cornwell, in August, confirmed 53 drug overdose deaths in the County since January.  The DA's Office says at least 70 overdose deaths have been confirmed as of present day. 

According to the DA's Office, Wagner will provide regular updates on the confirmed number of overdose deaths.