Father guilty of homicide in daughter’s heroin death

Jury needs only 28 minutes to convict Grafton man in case that hinged on the law, not undisputed facts
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

It took an Ozaukee County jury just 28 minutes last week to find a Town of Grafton man guilty of first-degree reckless homicide in connection with the July 2017 heroin overdose death of his 32-year-old daughter.

Terry L. Hibbard, 60, was convicted of being a party to the crime of homicide, which means he aided and abetted the Milwaukee drug dealer who sold Taralyn Hibbard the fentanyl-laced heroin that killed her by giving her a ride to meet the dealer.

That dealer, 27-year-old Davion Poe, was arrested 10 days after Ms. Hibbard’s body was found on July 10, 2017, surrounded by drug paraphernalia in the Town of Grafton trailer home where she lived. 

Poe pleaded guilty to homicide, and on the day he was sentenced to eight years in prison followed by 10 years of extended supervision, Mr. Hibbard, who after initially lying to authorities helped them build a case against Poe, was arrested and charged with contributing to his daughter’s death.

Last week’s trial was unusual in that the facts of the case were not disputed. The defense, in fact, did not call a single witness.

The key fact in the case was that shortly after his daughter’s death, Mr. Hibbard told authorities she had purchased drugs from a dealer nicknamed Cheese, who authorities later identified as Poe. When asked how he knew that, Mr. Hibbard said he had driven her to meet Poe in Milwaukee the day before her body was found.

That, Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol argued, made Mr. Hibbard an accessory to homicide. 

“But for him giving her a ride to the dealer, Teralyn doesn’t die,” Gerol told the jury of five women and seven men at the beginning of the day-and-a-half trial. 

But Mr. Hibbard’s lawyer, Gary Schmaus, noted that his client waited in his car while his daughter met with Poe and paid him $60 for heroin during a deal she arranged. Mr. Hibbard didn’t give his daughter money to buy the heroin or handle it except for snorting a small amount his daughter gave him after they drove back to the Town of Grafton, Schmaus said. 

“It’s clear he was not acting as a father ought to act,” Schmaus said. “You can be disgusted with him. He’s disgusted with himself ... but that doesn’t mean he committed a crime.” 

Both Mr. Hibbard and Poe were charged under a law named for Len Bias, the University of Maryland basketball star who, two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics on June 17, 1986, died of a cocaine overdose. The law, enacted in Wisconsin in 1988, is intended to hold people who sell drugs that result in fatal overdoses responsible for the deaths.

The application of the law to Poe’s case was straightforward — he sold the drugs to Ms. Hibbard that resulted in her death.

But the case against Mr. Hibbard was more complex. He didn’t sell his daughter the drugs, but by giving her a ride to the dealer who did, he was equally as guilty, Gerol argued. 

Schmaus, however, argued that Gerol was “overreaching” with his application of the Len Bias law to Mr. Hibbard. He told the jury that Gerol is trying “to fit a square peg in a round hole” by using a law meant to get drug dealers off the street to prosecute a man who was an addict but not a dealer.

“It (the Len Bias Law) is a good law if we’re talking about getting dealers off the streets,” Schmaus told the jury. “But Mr. Hibbard had no contact with the dealer, didn’t pay for the drugs, didn’t have anything to do with the transaction or directly transfer the drugs to (Ms. Hibbard).

“In no way did Mr. Hibbard aid or abet Davion Poe in terms of providing drugs to Teralyn.”

The investigation that led to the convictions of Mr. Hibbard and Poe began on July 10, 2017, when authorities responding to a 911 call found Ms. Hibbard’s body in a bedroom surrounded by drug paraphernalia — syringes, makeshift tourniquets and “cookers” used to liquefy heroin — as well as Narcan, a medication that blocks the effects of opioid drugs and is used to revive overdose victims. According to a text message authorities later found on Ms. Hibbard’s phone, she overdosed just days before her death and was revived with Narcan administered by her father, according to the criminal complaint.

Key to the investigation, as is often the case in drug crimes, was Ms. Hibbard’s cell phone, Gerol told the jury.

“A victim’s phone is a time capsule,” he said. “It allows authorities to go back in time and determine what happened.”

On Ms. Hibbard’s cell phone, authorities found a text exchange about buying drugs with a subject listed as “Daddy,” who they quickly identified as her father.  Also found on the phone was a text message exchange with Poe about buying $60 of heroin.

When first interviewed by authorities, Mr. Hibbard lied, telling them his daughter was not taking drugs any more and was getting her life back together, Gerol said.

“He said he had no idea where she got the drugs” she overdosed on, he said. 

In a subsequent interview, Hibbard changed his story and told investigators his daughter had bought the heroin from Poe.

Ms. Hibbard was visiting a friend in the days leading up to her death when she made arrangements with her father to pick her up in Milwaukee and take her to meet Poe. 

Mr. Hibbard described the heroin she bought from Poe as being “really potent,” the complaint states. 

Mr. Hibbard said that after his daughter purchased the heroin, they drove home, where she gave him a “line to snort.” He said she kept the rest of the heroin, adding that “she always did a lot,” according to the complaint.

Mr. Hibbard said the last time he saw his daughter was around midnight the day she died.

Working with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Mr. Hibbard, Ozaukee County authorities set up two undercover drug buys in which Mr. Hibbard purchased heroin from Poe.

Mr. Hibbard is scheduled to be sentenced by Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy on Dec. 13. He faces a maximum 25 years in prison and 15 years of extended supervision.

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