POTTSTOWN — Two Montgomery County men have been held for trial for their alleged roles in the overdose death of another man, whose body was dropped off at a Pottstown hospital during an attempted cover-up of the incident.
Ronald Lee Shock, 35, of the 100 block of Montgomery Avenue, Douglass (Mont.) Township, and Joshua Kyle Benner, 28, of the 100 block of Hopewell Lane, Franconia Township, each was ordered to stand trial, after their preliminary hearings before District Court Judge Edward C. Kropp Sr., on charges of drug delivery resulting in death, conspiracy, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and recklessly endangering another person in connection with their alleged roles in the May 7, 2020, overdose death of 35-year-old Ramon “Ray” Morales, who was found deceased on the grass outside of Pottstown Hospital Tower Health.
Shock, who is represented by defense lawyer John I. McMahon Jr., and Benner, who is represented by defense lawyer Thomas C. Egan III, each remain in the county jail in lieu of $99,000 cash bail to await their formal arraignment hearings on the charges in county court. After the men are formally arraigned, a judge will set a trial date.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren Marvel handled the preliminary hearings.
With the charges, detectives alleged the drugs were supplied by Benner and that Benner and Shock were negligent for not seeking immediate medical attention for Morales after Morales became unresponsive.
During the investigation, detectives located a “voice recorder” app installed on Benner’s cell phone and uncovered six recordings, some of which captured alleged conversations that occurred between Benner and Shock on May 7 at the time Morales was overdosing from a combination of fentanyl and cocaine, according to court documents.
“In listening to the audio recording, Benner and Shock can be heard trying to decide what to do with Morales who was suffering from a drug overdose and not waking up,” Montgomery County Special Detective Andrew Rook and Pottstown Detective Brooke Hatfield alleged in a criminal complaint, adding Morales could be heard making noises typically “heard prior to death.”
The investigation began about 2:45 a.m., on May 7 when Pottstown police responded to the hospital located in the 1600 block of East High Street for a report of an unresponsive male found outside of the hospital, according to the arrest affidavit filed Rook and Hatfield.
Hospital staff discovered the male, who had no identification and no cell phone, lying in a grassy area between the emergency room entrance and the parking lot and the man’s clothing was “soaking wet” despite the fact it had not been raining, according to court papers. The man could not be revived and he was pronounced dead.
The male was identified as Morales on May 9 after Douglass (Mont.) police received a call from a female friend of Morales who reported him missing. The woman reported Morales had been staying at Shock’s Montgomery Avenue apartment and had not been seen since May 6, according to the arrest affidavit. Douglass police located Morales’ work van in the parking lot of the apartment complex.
A subsequent autopsy determined Morales died from a “combined drug intoxication” of fentanyl and cocaine.
During the investigation, detectives reviewed hospital video surveillance that showed a dark-colored Dodge Caliber vehicle registered to Benner in the hospital parking lot at 2:22 a.m. May 7, near the area where Morales’ body was located, according to court papers.
Court papers indicate that detectives subsequently located Benner’s vehicle parked in the parking lot outside Shock’s apartment, the same lot where Morales’ van was located.
Through multiple interviews, the cell phone audio recordings and cell phone data records, investigators determined Benner traveled with a female friend to the Kensington section of Philadelphia to buy cocaine and heroin/fentanyl on May 6, according to the arrest affidavit. Later that evening, Benner allegedly sold some of the drugs to Shock and Morales and they consumed the drugs about 11 p.m. at Shock’s residence.
“Morales used the drugs and was acting animated and high. However, Morales then began to nod off. After nodding off, Morales would not wake up. Benner and Shock tried to wake Morales up by placing him in the shower…,” detectives, based on witness statements, alleged in the arrest affidavit, adding the men also called a friend to try to obtain Narcan, which is used to reverse an opioid emergency or overdose, but to no avail.
From approximately 11:30 p.m. May 6 when Morales overdosed until 2:22 a.m. on May 7 when Benner’s car was observed on hospital surveillance, the defendants did not call 911 or seek medical help, despite discussing the fact that Morales was overdosing, authorities alleged.
When detectives located the “voice recorder” app installed on Benner’s cell phone and listened to the recordings, Benner and Shock could be heard discussing placing Morales in the shower, and a shower was heard on one of the recordings, court papers alleged.
“The audio captures Morales who is heard breathing very slowly and doing snore-like, gurgling noises. We are aware that these noises are typically caused by the loss of the coughing reflex and passage of breath through a collection of mucous and are sometimes heard prior to death,” Rook and Hatfield wrote in court documents. “The recording started after Morales had already become unresponsive and at no time during the recording was Morales talking or responding.”
At 12:55 a.m., Benner allegedly told Shock that he “got to go trash all this (expletive)” and “got to get rid of it,” which detectives claimed is consistent with Benner trying to remove any evidence of drug use from Shock’s apartment – all prior to Morales being transported to the hospital.
The recordings also depicted Benner and Shock allegedly discussing how to drop Morales off at the hospital without being seen or captured by video surveillance.
“During the conversations captured before and after Morales was dropped off at the hospital, Benner and Shock can be heard discussing the situation and conspiring to make sure that their stories matched. They discussed cleaning up the apartment and trying to figure out what to do with Morales’ van that was parked in the apartment complex parking lot,” Rook and Hatfield alleged in court papers.
Benner allegedly told Shock “that he will take what happened to Morales to his grave,” but also talked about going to jail for what happened to Morales, adding, “we’re looking at state time for this bro” and “they want to crackdown on, on this fentanyl and (expletive),” according to the contents of the phone recordings outlined in the arrest affidavit.
The investigation also determined Benner’s cell phone, in the days after Morales overdosed, was used to conduct internet searches for information related to Morales’ death including searches for “overdose victim dropped in front of pottstown hospital may 2020” and “pottstown homicide,” according to court papers.
When he was interviewed by detectives, Shock allegedly claimed Morales was his “best friend” and that Morales “probably would have been alive if Shock and Benner had called 911,” according to the arrest affidavit.
A search of Benner’s car during the investigation uncovered multiple baggies of heroin/fentanyl, cocaine and other illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia, authorities alleged.