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Hibbing woman arraigned in boyfriend's overdose death

Kimberly Ann Elkins

Hours after her boyfriend was found dead of an overdose, a Hibbing woman admitted to police that she provided the man with a portion of her prescription fentanyl patch but claimed the drug "should not have caused his death."

That's according to the criminal complaint charging Kimberly Ann Elkins, 47, with third-degree murder in the death of Aaron John Rost.

Rost, 36, was found dead in the couple's Hibbing apartment on Dec. 5. A medical examiner determined that he overdosed on fentanyl, a potent opioid that is used to treat extreme pain, particularly in cancer patients.

Elkins is the latest in a string of Northland defendants to face murder charges in connection with overdose deaths. She was arraigned in State District Court in Hibbing on Monday, three days after she was taken into custody on a warrant.

According to the complaint:

Elkins' son called 911 after finding both Elkins and Rost unconscious in their Hibbing apartment on the 3000 block of East Second Street on Dec. 5.

Rost, who was found on the floor just inside the doorway, was pronounced dead at the scene. Elkins was found upstairs in a laundry room, also suffering from an apparent overdose. A portion of a fentanyl patch was found in Elkins' mouth, and she was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Investigators later spoke with Elkins, who reported that she provided Rost with about half a fentanyl patch that she had been wearing earlier in the day. She said Rost put it in his mouth to chew on.

Elkins said it was not uncommon for Rost to use the remaining portions of her fentanyl patches, which she typically wears for three days. She stated that Rost was previously prescribed the drug, and that she didn't believe the dose would harm him.

Dr. Michael Madsen of the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy on Rost, ruling out trauma or natural causes. The medical examiner concluded the cause of death was fentanyl toxicity, noting that a medical patch was found in the victim's mouth.

Experts say fentanyl can be 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, and can be fatal in doses as small as 2 milligrams.

The drug has been involved in at least three previous overdose deaths that have led to criminal charges:

• In January, Kayla Jo Vranish was charged with providing a lethal dose of fentanyl-laced heroin to Kathy Ann Davis of Hermantown. A third-degree murder charge is pending.

• In December, Robert Todd Ferguson of Cloquet was sentenced to seven years in prison for providing a fatal dose of fentanyl to 25-year-old Paul Duane Mrosla, a friend of his daughter, in January 2014.

• In February 2015, Terry Wayne Richards of Grand Rapids pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter for giving his wife a lethal dose of fentanyl in September 2014. He is serving a 68-month prison sentence.

Rost was born in Grand Rapids but was a longtime resident of Hibbing and enjoyed spending time with family, hunting and fishing, according to an online obituary. He was survived by two children, two sisters and his mother, among other family and friends.

A check of Minnesota and Wisconsin court records indicates that Elkins' criminal history includes misdemeanor convictions for furnishing alcohol to a minor, issuing bad checks and theft.

If convicted of third-degree murder, Elkins faces a maximum of 25 years in prison. She remained at the St. Louis County Jail on Monday evening on $75,000 bail.

Elkins' next court appearance is set for Thursday.