Chattanooga Police arrest man in 2018 "dumped and dying" overdose death case

Police arrested 52-year-old James Kelly Harbison (left) on Tuesday in connection with the March, 2018 death of 37-year-old Erik Patty (right). Images: Hamilton Co. Jail / Patty family / MGN)

Chattanooga Police have made an arrest in an overdose death case NewsChannel 9 has been following for the last year and a half.

Police arrested 52-year-old James Kelly Harbison on Tuesday in connection with the March, 2018 death of 37-year-old Erik Patty.

"Happy -- I'm just happy that this is finally coming to an end," said Wendy Cronon, Patty's mother.

He is charged with tampering/fabricating evidence and filing false reports. As of now, he is not charged with causing Patty's death.

Investigators say the night of March 28th, 2018, officers responded to a local hospital where Patty was found alone and unresponsive in the parking lot. Doctors worked hard to save Patty's life, but he did not survive.

An affidavit obtained by NewsChannel 9 says Harbison drove Erik Patty to Erlanger East, left him half-naked in the parking lot between two cars. He called 911, used a fake name and said he dumped an unconscious man off in hospital's parking lot.

The affidavit says because that 911 call was so vague, it took medical staff almost 20 minutes to find Patty in the parking lot. He was finally located by a janitor who was on a break and saw him lying between two cars.

So why did it take a year and a half to make an arrest? The affidavit says they were able to immediately track the 911 call to Harbison, but he told police he picked Patty up at a hotel after his son called him for help.

The affidavit says police later learned it was Harbison's home where his son and Erik Patty used the drugs, and he made up the initial story to direct suspicion away from him. It also says Harbison waited an "extremely extended period of time" before taking Patty to the hospital.

Police say since the original call, narcotics investigators conducted an extensive follow-up investigation. Police say, "Their dedicated efforts during the past 18-months led to the arrest of Harbison who was booked into the Hamilton County Jail on October 1, 2019."

CPD narcotics officers continue the investigation on this case.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Patty's mom, Wendy Cronon, who we've spoken with in the past, said her prayers have been answered with news of this arrest.

"I just feel complete relief," Cronon said. "Even though we know it’s not completely over yet until this person is in prison.”

Depend on us to keep you posted.

Read more: Dumped and Dying: The story of a man family says was left overdosing in a parking lot
Read more: One year later: Chattanooga mom still searching for answers after son's death

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