- Olivia Hitchcock Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Travis Tekel would fix computers, hack credit cards, pay bills — anything for some heroin caps and a stick of Xanax. The 28-year-old was a computer genius with an opioid addiction and the brains to fuel it.
Like an increasing number of addicts, Tekel died June 1 of a carfentanil overdose just hours after he’d paid a woman’s electric bill in exchange for what he likely thought was heroin.
Unlike most opioid victims, though, Tekel’s death led to his dealer’s arrest on manslaughter, fraud and drug-related charges.
Shalonda Lashay Golden, 27, was booked early Friday into the Palm Beach County Jail after a months-long sheriff’s office’s investigation into the texts, phone calls and surveillance footage that they say pin Golden as the one who delivered the fatal drugs to Tekel at a Delray Beach-area home.
Golden is being held in the county jail on a $104,000 bond.
Tekel, a dark-haired southern New York native, was introduced to opioids after a back injury, according to his mother Carol Hadges. She’d stay up with her son in the Boynton Beach home they shared as he shook with pain from an aching back and a growing addiction.
He eventually took up heroin and overdosed four times in the three years before his death. Hadges needed more than Narcan to save her son.
“I could scream and yell at him all I wanted but it wouldn’t have done anything,” Hadges said in an interview Friday. “It was a lifetime of help he needed.”
Tekel suffered from bipolar disorder and only took medication intermittently. “He thought he could take care of it on his own,” Hadges remarked.
He couldn’t. On at least two occasions violent outbursts landed him in jail, court records show. The most recent case brought him to a Delray-area rehabilitation center, his parents said. But he was kicked out, and a week later he was dead.
Records indicate Golden showed up in a white Honda Accord late June 1 to the parking lot of Tekel’s home off South Military Trail north of Linton Boulevard. By midnight, he was dead from a fatal dose of carfentinal, fentanyl’s powerful cousin, the medical examiner determined.
Twelve hours later, Golden sent Tekel’s roommate a text. The roommate mentioned Tekel hadn’t been around.
“I hope ain’t nothing happen to him,” she reportedly texted. “He ain’t take too much of it did he?”
She said she’d sold Tekel heroin and Xanax and swore she didn’t cut it with anything.
“Whoever I bought the stuff from last time he was bad business. I don’t know where I can even get no cut from,” she texted. “I go to the people and I’m giving it to you guys how I buy it. That’s all I do.”
Tekel met Golden through her incarcerated boyfriend, Tekel’s former drug dealer, records show. The Post is not naming Golden’s boyfriend because he does not face charges in Tekel’s death. Authorities reviewed dozens of recorded jailhouse calls between Golden and her boyfriend. They repeatedly discussed Tekel, records state, and once Golden’s boyfriend even called to thank Tekel for taking care of Golden’s bills.
The morning of June 1, Golden told her boyfriend that Tekel paid the light bill in exchange for drugs.
Two days after Tekel’s death, authorities pulled over Golden in the same Accord that video reportedly captured her driving the night of Tekel’s death. She had an invalid driver’s license, records indicate, and her car smelled of marijuana. Sheriff’s authorities searched her car and found a pawn slip with credit card information on it. She told them Tekel, a friend who she said was “enamored with her,” had filled it out.
Detectives’ numerous interviews with Golden’s other clients indicate her boyfriend passed his buyers on to her when he was locked up in March. Jail records indicate he last was released from jail in early November.
Despite hundreds of overdose deaths each year in the county, rarely anyone faces criminal charges for those deaths. However, the 30-year federal prison sentence handed down to Lake Worth drug dealer Christopher Massena in the overdose death of Christian “Ty” Hernandez showed a crackdown on dealers.
“Drug dealers know about this case and they are watching,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Nucci before the sentencing. “You must sentence him harshly to let them know.”
According to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, 552 people lost their lives inside the county’s borders to drug overdoses in 2016 — a 106 percent leap from 2015, when 268 people overdosed and died. In 2014, there were 167 fatal overdoses.
The final numbers for 2017 won’t be available until, at least, the first quarter of 2018, but the county’s Medical Examiner predicts a 5 to 10 percent jump in overdose deaths.
Tekel’s father, Larry Tekel, keeps a photo of his son as the background of his cellphone. When Detective James Evans called Friday morning to tell the father about Golden’s arrest, Tekel glanced at his son’s picture and smiled:
“We got ‘em, Travis.”