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SC man gets life in prison for 776 homemade fentanyl pills, stolen Army machine gun

An M4A1 Carbine sniper rifle mounted on a bipod with the buttstock on a sandbag sit at the ready on Range 66 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Aug. 30, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Stephenson)
December 20, 2019

Marques Quantez Heath of Rock Hill has spent about 15 of the last 18 years in jail or prison, court records show.

In his three years outside of jail, police and court records show, the 36-year-old has been arrested on dozens of charges ranging from dealing fentanyl and crack to murder.

He’s committed drug deals with handguns and machine guns, police and court records show. He’s attacked women and broken into homes, police and prosecutors allege.

In one case, Heath is accused of killing one woman and wounding two others during shootings at two York County homes in February 2019. One of the victims who survived being shot was pregnant.

He’s also accused of beating three other people with a hammer and kidnapping the victims during the crime spree in February. The day after, court records show, he was scheduled to be in court, accused of beating up his girlfriend. That court proceeding was set for a judge to consider revoking Heath’s bond on the prior charges.

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But that’s not why Heath is going to a South Carolina prison for the rest of his life.

In the South Carolina court system, it’s three violent strikes and you’re out.

Heath was convicted late Thursday after a four-day trial at the Moss Justice Center in York for possessing 776 homemade fentanyl pills as well as illegal guns and other drugs. The weapons included an M-4 machine gun stolen from the Army National Guard in Lancaster that is illegal to have anywhere outside a military base, prosecutors said.

The machine gun had two bullet-filled magazines taped together so that Heath could use both sets of bullets without reloading, prosecutors said.

Heath has past convictions for crack cocaine trafficking, burglary, and other crimes. He received life without parole under South Carolina’s “three strikes” rule that allows prosecutors to seek life for a third violent crime.

Heath was sentenced Thursday without the possibility of parole. Visiting South Carolina Circuit Court Judge R. Lawton McIntosh handed down the sentence.

Heath was convicted of nine drug and weapon crimes, possession of a firearm by a felon and resisting police, plus life for dealing the three dangerous narcotics.

“Mr. Heath, these other sentences are to be served before the life sentence,” McIntosh said in court.

Heath said nothing in court as he was sentenced to life.

And he still faces murder, attempted murder, burglary, kidnapping, weapons, assault and other charges from that February crime spree. Heath was arrested in that case in Charlotte hours after the women were shot, following a police manhunt in both North Carolina and South Carolina.

“This defendant is the reason South Carolina has life without parole,” said 16th Circuit assistant solicitor Dan Porter, who prosecuted Heath along with prosecutor Jennifer Colton.

“He is incapable of conforming to the societal expectations of the people of York County and the state of South Carolina. This conviction ensures that York County is a safer place.”

The drug convictions may have saved lives, prosecutors said. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control website. The drug has been blamed by officials for overdoses and deaths.

Heath chopped fentanyl into existing pills, so there was no way to know if the dosage would have been potentially lethal to someone who used the illegally made pills, prosecutors say.

“These pills the defendant had were homemade and had dangerous fentanyl,” said 16th Circuit Depty Solicitor Willy Thompson after the trial. “Every dose of them could have been deadly. Those drugs were like the bullets of a gun, waiting to kill somebody.”

Thompson is the lead prosecutor in the pending cases against Heath for the shooting of the three women and other attacks in February. Those cases remain pending. Thompson said prosecutors plan to bring Heath back to court from a South Carolina prison to face trial for murder, kidnapping, and the other crimes.

Heath has pleaded not guilty in all those cases.

Heath’s lawyer, Michael Morin of the York County Public Defender’s Office, declined comment after the trial on Thursday’s conviction or the pending charges Heath still faces.

Heath has three new charges to wait on, too. On Dec. 12, four days before his trial started, Heath was charged with assault for attacking three female officers at the York County jail, records show.

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© 2019 The Herald