Bemidji fentanyl overdose death leads to murder conviction

A man has been convicted of murder in Beltrami County following the overdose death of a woman.

The Beltrami County Attorney’s Office announced the conviction of Jeffrey Needham on charges of third-degree murder; selling/distributing a controlled substance.

According to the Bemidji Police Department, on April 26, 2023, officers responded to the report of an unresponsive woman on the 2500 block of Itasca Loop Northwest.

Needham initially opened the door for officers and told them that he had arrived home from work to her lying on her stomach, charges state. At the time of the incident, her 11-year-old son was asleep upstairs.

While on scene, officers saw a glass drug pipe in plain view, charges say, although Needhman told police he had "no idea" where she would have gotten drugs. She was taken to a Fargo area hospital, where she died the following day from what authorities concluded to be an overdose.

The following day, investigators learned that the victim's sister was able to access her phone, on which she found messages between her and Needham discussing both drugs and paraphernalia, with Needham saying at one point, "Hurry up baby I want to smoke wit you."

When confronted by police about the messaging, Needham admitted to both consuming and distributing drugs but claimed that the drugs were marijuana.

When told it appeared the messages were consistent with referencing fentanyl use, Needham agreed it seemed that way, and admitted they had used fentanyl together earlier in the day, but that he did not know where she had gotten it from.

Police spoke with Needham’s supervisor at Burger King, who stated he, "often disappears while at work and no one can find him," but will then, "show back up a while later."

Detectives subsequently received a warrant to search Facebook messages, which showed that between April 25-26, 2023, Needham responded to his sister, "Don’t worry I wasn’t a dumb a-- and told the cops who I got the dope from… I’m not an idiot."

Needham eventually entered a guilty plea, admitting in court that he was the fentanyl source.

On June 18, 2024, he was sentenced to 78 months in prison.