Heroin death case leads to moonshine bust

Suspected supplier faces murder charge

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Wilson County sheriff’s officials have arrested a second suspect in connection to the Dec.1 death of 36-year-old Rebecca Ann Kemp.

On Thursday night, authorities charged 51-year-old James Jerome Bass of rural Wilson County with second-degree murder in the case as well as possession with intent to sell heroin, maintaining a swelling for the sale/delivery of heroin, possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Bass’ arrest comes after Kemp’s 39-year-old boyfriend Bennie Thomas Amerson was arrested and charged with second-degree murder after officials say he supplied her with heroin, causing her to go into cardiac arrest and die.

Sheriff’s officials said Friday Bass supplied the heroin to Amerson.

During the course of the investigation into Kemp’s overdose death, the sheriff’s office Special Operations Division followed up on multiple leads, according to Wanda Samuel, sheriff’s office chief of staff.

“From their investigation, it was learned that the supplier of the heroin to Bennie Amerson was James Jerome Bass,” she said.


A follow-up investigation on Friday led detectives to execute a search warrant on Bass’ property located at 9173 Hogg Road, which has a Middlesex address and is located in Wilson County near the Buckhorn Reservoir.

Detectives not only found more than 10 bags of heroin, but also discovered what’s commonly known as a liquor still or moonshining operation.

Detectives estimated there was $50,000 worth of “moonshine mash” ready to be produced, Samuel said. They also discovered “finished products of non-tax-paid liquor,” according to officials.

Wilson County Animal Enforcement seized 13 dogs from the property, Samuel said. Three of the 13 dogs were extremely malnourished, she added. The dogs were taken to a veterinary hospital to be evaluated.

Bass was subsequently charged with nine counts of failure to vaccinate dogs/cats and seven counts of animal cruelty. He also faces charges including manufacturing liquor without a permit and possession/sale of a non-tax-paid alcoholic beverage.


Sheriff’s office narcotics detectives also reached out to the Vance County Sheriff’s Office, Henderson Police Department and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation in Vance County, Samuel said.

She said Wilson County sheriff’s detectives identified Bass’ supplier — 30-year-old Reginald Lamont Lewis. The multi-agency investigation led to Lewis’ arrest, officials said.


On Dec. 1, deputies responded to Kemp’s 702 Little Rock Church Road home in Lucama at 9:37 p.m. A dispatcher told deputies that Kemp had suffered a cardiac arrest and was not breathing, according to officials.

When deputies arrived, Amerson was performing CPR on Kemp, Samuel said. Deputies then took over and performed CPR until medics arrived shortly thereafter.

Kemp was taken to Wilson Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

While deputies were on the scene of the incident, they collected a bindle of heroin and a hypodermic needle from the home, Samuel said.


Sheriff Calvin Woodard said intelligence-sharing between law enforcement agencies allowed investigators to trace the heroin to its source and arrest the supplier whose drug caused Kemp’s death.

“I have stated several times that the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office will not stand idle to the distribution of illegal drugs in Wilson County,” Woodard said in a statement. “I do not want families to lose their loved ones due to these poisons, and we will do everything lawful to prevent its distribution within this county. I am saddened that such an incident occurred, but we will not sit back as these families mourn for their loved ones and let these dealers destroy our communities. We will continue to investigate every overdose case, locate these dealers and bring them to justice.”