A Columbia drug dealer who sold drugs to a depressed 19-year-old University of South Carolina student knowing she would use them to kill herself pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday.
Anthony Hunt, 24, faces a prison term of 20 years to life but will be sentenced at a later date. He pleaded guilty to selling Oxycodone pills, knowing that the buyer, Rachel Bandman, would use them to kill herself. She lived at The Hub, a popular Main Street high-rise apartment complex for students and young professionals.
“Had it not been for Hunt, Rachel Bandman would still be alive today,” Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said in an interview later Tuesday. Watts originally classified her death as a suicide but, after law enforcement investigations, changed his ruling to homicide.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Drug Enforcement Administration lead investigator Adam Roberson told U.S. Judge Michelle Childs chilling details about Hunt’s role in Bandman’s death that had never before been made public.
Roberson said Bandman met Hunt in the Five Points bar district near USC’s campus and began a brief romantic relationship with him. Bandman began buying drugs from Hunt during the relationship and continued after it had ended.
In late January 2016, Bandman told Hunt she wanted to kill herself, Roberson said.
Hunt sold her Xanax and some other drugs, but it didn’t work, Roberson said. So Bandman bought more Xanax from Hunt, Roberson said. The second attempt made her fall unconscious but did not kill her, Roberson said.
“Mr. Hunt was very surprised that she was still alive,” Roberson told the judge.
Bandman wanted to try again, so Hunt sold her some Oxycodone tablets for $300, telling her she should crush half of them into powder and snort them, and take the rest by mouth.
The third time worked. Bandman, a public relations major at USC and Chi Omega sorority sister from Virginia, was found dead in her Hub apartment by her roommate. The three attempts had played out over three days.
Oxycodone is a powerful narcotic prescription drug used illegally to get its users high. Known for its addictive properties, it is responsible for thousands of deaths each year, mostly due to unintended overdoses.
Investigators from DEA and the Columbia Police Department eventually linked Hunt to Bandman’s death. Text messages on Bandman’s and Hunt’s cellphones documented both Bandman’s intent to kill herself and Hunt’s role in her death — including his intention to make money from her death and provide Bandman a deadly dose.
Hunt’s apartment, on the 1600 block of Greene Street, is less than half a block from the USC College of Nursing. Hunt is still facing state charges of selling drugs within a half-mile of a school.
In searching his apartment, investigators found $10,000 in cash, bags containing marijuana and a .45 caliber Taurus handgun.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Hunt, his ankles and wrists shackled and wearing a bright red jail jump suit, replied “Yes, ma’am” repeatedly to Judge Childs, who was required by law to explain to Hunt the rights he would relinquish by pleading guilty.
“You still wish to plead guilty?” Childs asked, finally.
“Yes, ma’am,” Hunt said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Garner is prosecuting the case. Federal public defender Katherine Evatt represented Hunt. Besides Columbia police and the DEA, investigating agencies included USC police, the Richland County sheriff’s and coroner’s offices, as well as the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support for people in distress 24/7. Call 1-800-273-8255.