12-year-old boy who lived in NJ drug den dies after overdose on school bus
GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP — On a Monday in January, emergency dispatchers received a call that a 12-year-old boy had been discovered passed out on a school bus.
As an ambulance made its way to the scene, the school nurse at Gloucester Township Elementary School tried in vain to revive Jeremian Suriel — known affectionately as CoCo.
After being taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, little CoCo died eight days later on Feb. 1.
The cause of death, which authorities revealed just this week: drug overdose. The drug: fentanyl.
Camden County prosecutors are now pursuing serious criminal charges against the boy's uncle, who they accuse of running a drug den in the Blackwood neighborhood, the same address where young Jeremian spent his time away from school.
They also accuse Troy Nokes, 35, of forcing the pre-teen to participate in the drug trade by making him clean drug paraphernalia that contained fentanyl.
While authorities did not specifically say publicly how the fentanyl got into Jeremian's system, a news release from the prosecutor's office suggests that he may have been exposed to it by handling drug paraphernalia without gloves.
Law enforcement agencies have often claimed that fentanyl — a synthetic opioid far more potent and deadly than heroin — can contaminate people through skin contact, although experts have cast doubt on this theory.
Fentanyl has been blamed for a rise in drug deaths, which last year in New Jersey totaled 3,081. So far this year, more than 670 deaths from any kind of drug have been reported. Of those, seven were among victims younger than 20.
Whichever way Jeremian overdosed on fentanyl, prosecutors want to hold Nokes responsible, using a first-degree homicide charge often thrown at drug dealers who supplied a lethal dose regardless of their intent to kill.
A boy's life
Jeremian's mother died before he could turn 4 years old.
His father, who has a long criminal record, has been incarcerated in a state prison since February 2020.
His uncle also has a criminal record stretching his entire adult life with repeated convictions for dealing drugs around a school, resisting arrest and leading police on dangerous pursuits.
While the cards that life dealt might have been stacked against Jeremian, that's not how his teachers remembered him.
"Jeremian Suriel brought so many gifts to our life," the staff wrote after planting a tree in his memory.
"I will always remember Jeremian popping his head into the doorway of my classroom and giving me a little wave," one of the teachers at his school recalled in an online tribute. "While he wasn’t my student, he always made sure to check in with me almost every day. He will be missed."
His obituary says "Coco loved football and was a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan."
He also loved playing basketball and video games with his brother, dancing and making TikTok videos with his cousins.
Among the other charges against Nokes:
— First-degree aggravated manslaughter
— First-degree maintaining a drug facility
— Second-degree employing a juvenile in a drug-dealing scheme
— Six counts of third-degree child endangerment
— Six counts of third-degree witness tampering
— Fourth-degree tampering with evidence
— Two counts of third-degree hindering apprehension
— Two counts of third-degree aggravated assault
An accomplice, Joanna Johnson, has been charged with tampering with evidence and hindering apprehension of Nokes.
The two suspects were arrested by the U.S.Marshals Service Regional Fugitive Task Force and were being held this week at the Camden County jail awaiting a court hearing. New Jersey 101.5 did not know Thursday evening whether they had attorneys who could speak on their behalf.