Two years after a man died of a heroin overdose in Jackson a woman is facing charges for his death and an officer is being recognized for the investigation that led to her arrest.
Sarah Valley, 41, is charged with criminally negligent homicide and delivery of a controlled substance after an investigation led police to conclude that she sold Wesley Kiggins the heroin that killed him.
Kiggins, 27, died Jan. 14, 2017, during a visit to Jackson. The former Jackson resident was fondly known as “Wootie” to family and friends.
Police were called that morning when Kiggins was found unresponsive at a house on Josephine Loop.
“While investigating the scene, law enforcement officers searched Kiggins’ coat pockets and discovered a cigarette box with a cellophane package on the side, which contained a small piece of suspected heroin, a lighter, spoon and syringe,” police wrote.
Police seized Kiggins’ phones and computer as evidence and searched them after obtaining a warrant.
Through electronic searches and the use of an informant, police identified Valley as Kiggins’ dealer.
Valley sold Kiggins heroin the day before he died, according to police.
Police cite text messages and surveillance footage as evidence of the drug deal they say happened in the parking lot of Smith’s Food and Drug.
A witness identified Valley as Kiggins’ “old dope dealer” in a photo lineup, police said.
Police attempted to interview Valley at her Alpine house in August 2018, they said.
“Valley stated she kind of remembered who Kiggins was and then informed agents she wanted to discontinue the conversation until she had an attorney present,” documents state.
Valley was arrested last October in relation to Kiggins’ death and was released on bond.
Records show Valley was arrested in 2014 for DUI and being under the influence. Police said she violated her terms of probation in that case.
She is set to appear in Teton County Circuit Court next week for a preliminary hearing in the criminally negligent homicide case.
After Kiggins’ death Jackson Police Officer Phil Smith teamed with agents assigned to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation to look into the case. The investigation spanned 10 months, and on Jan. 22 Smith was awarded the Medal of Merit for his efforts.
“It was exciting,” Smith told the News&Guide. “I just try to do the job and catch people doing bad things. Dealing heroin in our town is not a good thing. The award is an honor, that’s for sure.”
It’s only the 10th time in the 60 years of the Jackson Police Department that an officer has received the medal, Chief of Police Todd Smith said.
“He’s definitely deserving of this,” Chief Smith said.
Phillip Smith is in his fifth year as an officer at the police department, and in September he lost his home in the Roosevelt Fire.
“He endured a lot of personal strife,” Chief Smith said. “And he came to work every day and got it done for the community. We are lucky to have this guy.”
The last time a Jackson Police Department Medal of Merit was awarded was in 2005 for the investigation into a brutal Town Square rape.
The suspects in that case fled to Mexico, and investigating officers were able to obtain an international warrant to return the men to Jackson to face prosecution. All four officers involved were awarded the medal.
Smith said it’s important to hold drug dealers accountable, especially in a small town like Jackson.
“I think someone who buys heroin makes that choice, but the person selling heroin is providing it,” Smith said. “Heroin is illegal for a reason.”
The Medal of Merit is one of the highest commendations an officer can receive and is awarded by the chief of police when an officer shows outstanding performance and devotion to duty.
“Officer Smith spearheaded an extensive investigation taking over 10 months and gathered sufficient evidence to identify a suspect who had delivered the controlled substance to the deceased,” Mayor Pete Muldoon read during an award ceremony, “which resulted in the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation issuing a warrant for negligent homicide and the suspect being arrested. I commend Officer Phillip Smith for his significant contributions in keeping our community safe.”
— Cody Cottier contributed to this article.