Former Skagway resident charged with manslaughter following two overdoses

A Skagway Police Department vehicle (File/KHNS)

After a lengthy investigation, an arrest was made in connection with the deaths of two men who died of a fentanyl overdose in Skagway last year.

Jacob Cotton, 33, was taken into custody at the Juneau airport by Skagway Police Chief Jerry Reddick and Officer James Michels. Cotton is charged with two counts of manslaughter and misdemeanor involving controlled substances. He is being held at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau.

Reddick was pleased with the development.

“This is something the families needed,” he says. “This is something our community needed.”

Anthony Bowers, 28, and James Cook, 44, died of overdoses over the weekend of January 13, 2023. Bowers and Cook were the first deaths in Skagway officially linked to fentanyl.

According to the police department, Cotton supplied fentanyl to Bowers, who then passed it on to Cook. In a charging document against Cotton, police said Cotton allegedly shipped the drugs from Washington to Skagway and Bowers spoke with Cotton online about selling the pills in Skagway.

Reddick says Cotton was officially a Washington resident but worked in northern Alaska. Cotton lived in Skagway for a time and moved away a few years before the deaths.

Reddick says he understands if people are frustrated that an arrest hasn't been made sooner. There is a process that must be followed. Once evidence is collected, it must be sent to federal authorities, who will decide whether to file charges. The federal authorities declined and jurisdiction was transferred to the district attorney.

Reddick says he was frustrated at times and reached out to the senator's office for help.

“The main thing is that we need our entire community to make this possible,” he says. “We work diligently. I can't praise Officer Michels enough for his dedication and hard work. And that, I mean, there are countless hours that go into it.”

Cotton's next hearing is scheduled for June 14.

Anna Harden

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