State v. Don Diego Brown

Case No. C-17-CR-16-000090


On January 24, 2017, in Case No. C-17-CR-16-000090, Don Diego Brown entered a plea of guilty to Distribution of Heroin.  The offense occurred on September 14, 2016.  On that date, at approximately 11:40 a.m., emergency personnel responded to the Subway restaurant located in Stevensville, Maryland for an unresponsive subject.  Upon arriving at this location medical personnel observed a white female lying on the floor of the women’s restroom.  She was unresponsive and attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.  A purse containing three syringes, a baggie of suspected heroin and a spoon with burn marks was recovered from the scene.

Investigation revealed that the woman, later identified as Crystal Jean Ringgold, was an employee of Subway and was on duty at the time of this incident.  In speaking with other store employees it was learned that Crystal was last seen around 10:00 that morning and around 11:35 employees realized Crystal was missing.  After repeated knocks on the bathroom door were unanswered the employees called 911.

An autopsy was performed by Dr. Patricia Aronica.  She determined the cause of death to be fentanyl and morphine intoxication.  Her expert opinion was that this was a one hundred percent heroin overdose related death with no other contributing factors.

Crystal Ringgold was a 27 year old single mother of an eight year old boy.

Based on the circumstances surrounding the death, a criminal investigation was initiated by the Queen Anne’s County Drug Task Force.  They reviewed Ms. Ringgold’s cellular phone history, surveillance footage from the Subway restaurant, surveillance footage from the Shore Stop located just across the parking lot from the Subway, and surveillance footage from Queenstown Bank.  This investigation revealed the following chain of events occurred between 8:20 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.:

  • Text messages between Crystal and a female identified as “Rachel” where Crystal is trying to purchase heroin
  • Rachel tells Crystal that she does not have any to sell to Crystal
  • Crystal advises that she is experiencing “dope sickness”
  • Crystal received a paycheck for $285.51 and cashes said check
  • Crystal continues to text back and forth with Rachel, who was working at the Shore Stop at the same time Crystal was working at Subway
  • Crystal visits Rachel at the Shore Stop before returning to Subway
  • Crystal texts an individual identified as “Don” and asks “how much do I owe you for gram?”  “Don” responds “140” and Crystal advises “I will give you a extra 20 if you get here quick. Lol”
  • “Don” responds that he is on his way.
  • At 9:53 a.m. a black Toyota Camry driven by “Don” pulls into the Subway parking lot
  • Crystal walks out to the parking lot to meet “Don” then returns into the Subway.
  • At 9:55 a.m. Crystal enters the women’s bathroom inside of Subway and never exits.

“Don” was identified as Don Diego Brown. “Rachel” was identified as Rachel Maury Bowman.  She pled guilty to Possession of Suboxone and Possession of heroin on January 19, 2017 in case number C-17-CR-16-000091; she was later sentenced to eight years of incarceration, execution of that sentence suspended and 30 months of supervised probation.  Prior to this incident, Ms. Bowman did not have a criminal record.

On March 21, 2017, Mr. Brown received 16 years to the Division of Corrections to serve.  He also faces the balance of time on a 2001 First Degree Assault conviction for which he was on parole during the commission of the instant offense.  Mr. Brown’s criminal record begins back in 1978 and is fairly consistent until 2001 at which point he was incarcerated until 2015.  This record consists of two forgeries, two assaults with intent to rob, one robbery, two thefts, two simple possessions of controlled dangerous substances, one possession with intent to distribute controlled dangerous substances, and the one first degree assault.  The hard work of investigators from the Queen Anne’s County Drug Task Force, quick response and thinking in regards to evidence preservation and witness statements by responding patrol officers and Criminal Investigators from the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office along with long hours of case review and trial preparation led to the successful arrest and prosecution of the person responsible for delivering the heroin that led to the overdose death of Crystal Jean Ringgold.

Ms. Ringgold’s death and the surrounding circumstances occurs at a time in which heroin related overdoses have reached epidemic proportions prompting federal, state, and county responses.  The matter was prosecuted by Deputy State’s Attorney Christine Dulla Rickard and Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer R. Doud, both of whom recently provided testimony regarding this case to the Maryland Legislature (House Bill 687 and Senate Bill 539) in hopes of creating a law for the distribution of an opioid (or opioid analogue) which results in the death of another.