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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2006
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Alabama student charged in fraternity brotherís death

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — A University of Alabama student has been charged with the murder of his fraternity brother.

Christopher Skelton, 20, was charged Tuesday in the death of James Echols, 19. Echols died Sept. 5 after taking a high dose of fetanyl, which he allegedly got from Skelton, The Tuscaloosa News reported.

Skelton worked in a drugstore pharmacy and, according to an indictment released Thursday, stole several medications and gave them to his Theta Chi fraternity brothers.

Tuscaloosa District Attorney Tommy Smith said Skelton reportedly gave Echols a Duragesic-brand patch that contained 100 micrograms of fetanyl, a strong pain medication usually given to cancer patients.

"This is an extreme pain killer that is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine or oxycotin,'' Smith said. "This was the largest dose available.''

Echols had been out on the night of Sept. 3 and went home to sleep. A friend found him unresponsive at about 1 p.m. the next day. He was taken to DCH Regional Medical Center, where he died the next morning.

Skelton has also been charged with manslaughter, six counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, six counts of possession and receiving
controlled substances, six counts of dispensing prescriptions to an unauthorized person, and second-degree theft of property.

According to the indictment, Skelton illegally distributed Adderall, Lortab and Xanax. An Alabama State Board of Pharmacy and the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force investigation later revealed that the drugs were taken from the Rite Aid pharmacy.

Skelton was released on $100,000 bail after being arrested Wednesday, the News reported. Smith said he would be arraigned in March.

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Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, http://www.tuscaloosanews.com

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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