Covington police have arrested a 22-year-old man accused of selling synthetic marijuana, or mojo, that killed a teenager in March.
Police Chief Tim Lentz said Monday that Jabari Pea was booked Friday on a count of second-degree murder under a state law that allows police to go after drug dealers whose products cause the death of people who ingest them.
Lentz said Pea sold Alexander James Shelby, 17, and another teenager the mojo for $20. On March 13, the two smoked the drug while at the Columbia Street Landing in Covington and passed out.
The other teen awoke and discovered Shelby lying face-down in a ditch. Efforts to revive him failed, and he died later at a hospital.
The St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office determined the death was due to “MDMB toxicity,” said Dr. Michael DeFatta. In other words, he said, Shelby died from the effects of the active ingredient in the mojo that he bought.
“Mojo” is a broad term that refers to a number of synthetic cannabinoids, DeFatta said. It is often impossible to determine how the body will react to them.
Pea has prior drug arrests on his record. He was set to go to trial in May on charges of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and not having lights on a bicycle.
Shelby and the other teen had smoked marijuana with Pea before, and this time, they approached him about a “different high,” Lentz said.
DeFatta said he suspects the drug caused Shelby’s central nervous system to slow down, and he may have stopped breathing. He did not drown in the ditch, DeFatta said.
March 13 was the first time Shelby had tried mojo, Lentz said.
Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence upon conviction.
Shelby’s death followed an August incident in which three students at Covington High School had reactions to mojo while at school and had to be treated at hospitals. In that case, Caleb Badeaux was charged with two felony counts of distribution. His trial is scheduled for May 9.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.