Polk arrests Pennsylvania man for second-degree murder

Published 4:34 pm Tuesday, September 2, 2014

by Leah Justice
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office extradited a suspect from Philadelphia, Penn. last week accused of mailing illegal narcotics to a woman staying in Polk County who died in February after ingesting the drugs.
Sean Michael Harrington, 25, of 2127 Hancock St., Philadelphia, Penn was arrested and charged with second-degree murder from drug distribution, two counts of sell/deliver a schedule I controlled substance and one count of sell/deliver a schedule II controlled substance, according to the arrest warrants.
Harrington is accused of mailing heroin and cocaine to Elisif Bruun, who was 24 at the time of her death. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded to a medical facility in Polk County where Bruun was staying on Feb. 11, 2014 to an unattended death. Det. BJ Bayne of the sheriff’s office said there was evidence of an overdose and once Bruun was sent for autopsy, overdose was the confirmed cause of death by the medical examiner.

Elisif Bruun died of an overdose of cocaine and heroin on Feb. 11, 2014. The Polk County Sheriff's Office arrested and charged Sean Michael Harrington, of Pennsylvania with second-degree murder for mailing her the drugs.

Elisif Bruun died of an overdose of cocaine and heroin on Feb. 11, 2014. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested and charged Sean Michael Harrington, of Pennsylvania with second-degree murder for mailing her the drugs.

Bayne said the sheriff’s office and the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) began an investigation and discovered the narcotics were mailed to the facility and tracked it back to Harrington in Pennsylvania. Harrington has never been to Polk County, which is why the case is the first of its kind for both the district and Polk County. North Carolina law includes that a person can be charged with murder if they deliver a drug that causes a death, but this is the first in this area where there was no hand-to- hand contact and the drug was delivered by mail.
Bayne said the sheriff’s office has been in touch with Bruun’s family, who lives in Florida. Bruun had attended school in Maryland but came for treatment in Polk County from working in Maine.
Bayne said it’s been a long investigation and the family has said they will attend a trial if it goes to trial.
“They don’t want this to happen to any one else’s daughter,” Bayne said Tuesday.
District Attorney Greg Newman said the law is not particularly new in North Carolina, but he has not had a factual scenario quite like this one. What is different, he said, is because Harrington mailed the drugs and he did it for profit.
Newman also said in this particular case, the prosecution feels it has excellent evidence and the DA’s office is in a good position to present the case early next year.
Newman said this case is a good reminder to everyone that narcotics can so negatively impact people in so many ways and it can be delivered in the mail. He said he is glad North Carolina provides means to make the charge and providing it through the mail doesn’t mean someone can escape the legal responsibility.
“A fellow can be sitting in Pennsylvania and still have to face charges here in our courts,” said Newman.
Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill said no one wants to see a case like this, especially for a young woman who was trying to improve her life.
“People need to be held accountable for their actions,” Hill said.
Hill said the credit in the investigation goes to the detectives and the SBI who did an excellent job tracking down the suspect. Hill said if someone wants to provide narcotics to people in Polk County, officers will find them and if even if they don’t live in Polk County “we will find you.”
“If we can prosecute you, we are going to prosecute you to the max,” Hill said.
Harrington had his first appearance in Polk County court Tuesday, Sept. 2. Harrington is being held at the Transylvania County Jail under a $450,000 bond.
Harrington stood before Judge Emily Cowan and asked for a court appointed attorney. Cowan asked Harrington if he understood the charges against him and he said, “yes ma’am.”
The grand jury is scheduled to meet Sept. 15 to consider indicting Harrington on the charges. Newman plans to ask for an increased, $750,000 bond sometime after the grand jury convenes.
Cowan listed out the felony charges for Harrington with maximum sentences for each, which totaled more than 600 months, or more than 50 years in prison if convicted.

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