INDIANAPOLIS – Prosecutors in Marion County charged a suspect accused of supplying the drugs that led to a man’s fatal overdose in 2020.
But the case may never have been pursued without a determined family’s quest for justice.
On Monday, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office charged 30-year-old Hunter McSwain with dealing a controlled substance resulting in death.
In July 2020, Nathan May was found dead inside a car in the 4100 block of Kildeer Drive on the south side. He’d overdosed on fentanyl. His family spent months seeking justice, even compiling evidence against McSwain, who’d admitted he’d given May fentanyl in exchange for Xanax. The evidence included text messages and recorded conversations.
The case was the subject of a February 2022 FOX59 investigation examining an Indiana law that punishes drug dealers with up to 40 years in prison following a deadly overdose.
The prosecutor’s office said in November 2021 that the case had been thoroughly investigated by IMPD and the evidence didn’t support criminal charges. After the report aired in February, the Drug Enforcement Administration asked to look at the information the family compiled, much of which is referenced in the probable cause affidavit from the case.
The evidence led to further investigation involving the DEA, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Southern Indiana, the Marion County Coroner’s Office and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.
Ultimately, the prosecutor’s office decided to charge McSwain.
According to court documents, the investigation began on the morning of July 26, 2020, when a guest approached a hotel employee to report that a man was “slumped over” inside a red car. The witness knocked on the window multiple times with no answer. The witness then opened the door and noticed the man’s nose was bleeding and he was cold to the touch.
The man was later identified as May. The coroner’s office determined he died from acute fentanyl intoxication. Autopsy results were certified in September 2020.
In February 2022, May’s mother provided DEA investigators with information she discovered after examining her son’s phone records. She found an unknown number on his phone and contacted the individual, who turned out to be McSwain.
The two exchanged text messages in August 2020, a few days after May’s death.
May’s longtime girlfriend provided investigators with a recorded conversation from June 2021, nearly a year after May’s death, in which McSwain’s girlfriend talked about how she and McSwain had met May in the hotel parking lot.
She said McSwain handed something to May, although she couldn’t see exactly what it was. The transaction lasted about ten minutes, according to court documents. May’s mother was also present during the conversation.
McSwain’s girlfriend said May gave McSwain some cash and Xanax. Her only contact with May was to say “hi,” according to court documents.
May walked back to the car, though McSwain’s girlfriend said McSwain pulled away before May got inside. Once inside his car, May never got back out. He was found dead the next morning; an employee at the hotel had no recollection of the car ever moving from that spot.
DEA investigators obtained a warrant for several phones, including those belonging to May, McSwain and McSwain’s girlfriend. Cell phone tower data put all three phones near Kildeer Drive on the afternoon of July 25, 2020. The last call from May’s phone went to McSwain at 2:03 p.m., investigators said.
McSwain was arrested on drug charges in Brown County in September 2021; police in that case had received judicial authorization to extract data from his phone. While they seized more than 32GB, investigators in the Brown County case were only allowed to examine a small range of it (Sept. 1 to Sept. 27, 2021).
Investigators looking into May’s case learned about the data in March 2022 and received judicial authorization to examine the full data set.
McSwain had upgraded from an iPhone 11 to a 2020 model of the iPhone SE, but data had been backed up on cloud servers. After extracting the chat data on iMessage, investigators found an exchange between McSwain and another individual on May 14, 2021, in which McSwain talked about May’s death.
“It’s not your fault. You told him what it was, and he still messed with it,” McSwain’s associate wrote.
“I told him, man. I even tried to straight ignore him about it,” McSwain wrote back.
“He would’ve gotten it from someone else, there’s no doubt about that,” the individual responded.
“Barely gave him ANYTHING MAN!!” McSwain later wrote. “The amount I gave [him] was like 8 grains of salt.”
“Did he mix it with something else? Or is that amount all it takes?” the other individual asked.
“[That’s] all it takes if [you are] not used to that or opiates alone,” McSwain replied.
During a conversation days later with the same person, McSwain again said he’d warned May that fentanyl was dangerous.
“I told him [it was dangerous]. But also consider the fact, the source it’s Nathan, nicest kid I’ve ever met and gullible too. I just felt bad,” McSwain wrote.
McSwain also shared a “Dear Nathan” letter he’d written in rehab in which he said he regretted picking up May’s phone call.
“I went to your funeral and [saw] you in a casket,” McSwain wrote, according to court documents. “Some days I think you gave me the shovel to bury you. I regret picking up your phone call. I made my problem into yours.”
Court records show McSwain has been previously charged in other drug-related cases.