JACK TOMCZUK Staff Writer Nov 26, 2016
LOWER TOWNSHIP — The family of a pregnant township woman found dead after an overdose last week said she struggled with heroin addiction and was trying to improve her life before relapsing.
Amanda Albee, 30, was discovered dead by her 9-year-old daughter Nov. 15 in the room they shared, according to Albee’s sister Amy Toomin.
Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor said it is too early to tell if the substance was heroin, fentanyl — a dangerous synthetic opiod that has been showing up in the county — or a mix.
Fentanyl is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Toomin and Albee’s mother, Theresa Crompton, said police told them the heroin Albee thought she was using was actually fentanyl.
“They knew that she was pregnant and they sold it to her anyway,” said Toomin, 29, who said she is in recovery for addiction.
Alycha Rodriguez, 22, of Brooklyn, New York, has been arrested and charged with first-degree strict liability of drug-induced death for allegedly selling Albee the drugs, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
Albee was three months pregnant, family said.
It wasn’t Albee’s first battle with drugs. Her heroin use prompted her older daughter to be placed in the sole custody of Toomin’s father, Toomin said.
“She was a great person when she was clean,” Toomin said. “She was always so overwhelmed, trying to strive for perfection.”
Rodriguez was staying temporarily at the Beach House Motel in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township.
On the same day Albee overdosed, officers saw Rodriguez chasing two men away from her motel room with a knife, Middle Township police said.
In September, Rodriguez was arrested in front of the Catalina Motel in Middle Township along with Jason Weaver, 39, also of Brooklyn, police said.
Rodriguez and Weaver were charged with various drug offenses, and Weaver was found to have an arrest warrant out in New York for handgun possession.
Toomin said Rodriguez was staying in a room at the Beach House Motel rented by Albee’s ex-boyfriend’s brother.
Several residents of the motel interviewed Friday said they never met Rodriguez but that drug and law enforcement activity was common at the motel.
“Some people come here selling drugs,” said Felix Santos, who added that he’s trying to find another place to live.
“We’ve been working so hard to clean this place up,” said Joe Berdel, the motel’s manager.
Rodriguez was not a resident of the motel, she was just visiting a friend, Berdel said. He said he threatened to kick her out a couple of times.
“Should have kicked her out sooner,” Berdel added. “She wasn’t even supposed to be here.”
Erin Miller, 30, said she’s living at the Beach House Motel with her three children while she waits to move into a house in Lower Township. She said she pays $400 a week in rent.
“I don’t like the kids being out here,” Miller said. “The cops are always here.”
Berdel said he showed police surveillance tapes that captured Ablee entering and leaving the motel.
“The whole thing took about ten minutes,” he said.
Crompton said she greeted people for two hours at Ablee’s memorial services. More than 200 people attended, Crompton and Toomin said.
“She was just absolutely beautiful,” Crompton said. “I miss her smile.”