BOONE COUNTY, Mo. - A Boone County woman faces a felony for a property linked to drug activity for more than year, including the fatal overdose of her teenage daughter.
Assistant Prosecutor Brouck Jacobs filed one count of maintaining a public nuisance against Michelle Nickle, which carries a maximum seven-year sentence if convicted.
Boone County deputies are no stranger to the apartment in the 6200 block of East Circle Drive. Starting in August 2015, calls regarding prescription pill sales and thefts of such drugs began, specifically the painkillers OxyContin and Oxycodone. Twice deputies investigated someone stealing pills from Nickle. In January, the deputies investigated an armed home invasion where the suspects "demanded the apartment's occupants to 'put the drugs in a bag.'" Twice anonymous callers informed the department about drug sales conducted in the apartment.
July 14 was the apartment's most morbid. A 17-year-old girl was found unconscious, and later determined to have died of an accidental Oxycodone overdose, according to the medical examiner's report. Witnesses that lived at the apartment said Nickle gave the teenager the painkillers.
The girl was Nickle's daughter.
"This is the cumulative effect of about a year of illegal and drug activity going on at that residence," Detective Tom O'Sullivan told ABC 17 News about the charge.
Nickle turned herself in for the public nuisance charge on October 17. She posted a $4,500 bond the same day.
Nobody came to the apartment's door Thursday night when ABC 17 News tried to talk to someone about the charge.
"We are up there for all types of stuff," O'Sullivan said of the Phenora Oaks neighborhood, which East Circle Drive and others make up. The neighborhood sits just north of the Rangeline Street roundabout near Highway 63. "We've had homicides up there, child abuse, domestic violence, drug transactions, you name it, it goes on up there."
O'Sullivan sees the situation as another example of the county's need for stronger regulations for rental properties. He feels derelict and unkempt properties fuel crime in neighborhoods like Phenora Oaks, and landlords face little consequence. The city of Columbia utilizes a Protective Inspection and Office of Neighborhood Services, which responds to residents' complaints of possible nuisance properties and performs regular inspections of rentals. The amount of drug-related activity like Nickle's apartment saw, O'Sullivan said, would have prompted city inspections had it been in Columbia.
"There are a lot of rental properties in the county that would not pass muster in the city of Columbia," O'Sullivan said.
Employing such an office would require a radical change in Boone County's government. The county is dictated by state law, and getting such an office would require state approval. The county has tried twice to change to a "charter" form of government, where a panel of people come up with the government's structure and allows it to make rules specific to the county. Voters rejected the final charter both times.
O'Sullivan said getting anything through the state legislature would be an arduous process, and he's not sure how successful a third charter attempt would be. However, the issues concentrated rental properties are posing for law enforcement are growing greater, he said.
"I understand what it was like 40, 50 years ago when you didn't have a whole lot of rental property out in the county," O'Sullivan said. "And I'm not talking about renting the old farmhouse on 50 acres. We have areas of the county that aren't rural. They're urban. And as such, that requires some regulation."