Man charged with murder after 2 Riverside women died from fentanyl overdoses – San Bernardino Sun

A 22-year-old man is the first person in the city to be charged with murder involving a fentanyl overdose, after the deaths of two women who died that way, the Riverside Police Department said.

The charges against Peter Luis Mera Garcia were filed on Feb. 24, three days after Sierra Rianne Rangel, 22, and     Arrena Marie Mariotti, 21, died.

Police did not confirm the arrest until Wednesday, April 27, because they were waiting for confirmation from the Riverside County Coroner’s Office that the women died from the fentanyl, said Officer Ryan Railsback, a Police Department spokesman.

Garcia is the first person charged with murder in a fentanyl overdose in the city, Railsback said. District Attorney Mike Hestrin is prosecuting about 15 such murder cases countywide. The district attorneys in Orange and San Bernardino counties are also prosecuting some fatal fentanyl overdoses as murder.

On April 20, Garcia pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and one count of being in possession of fentanyl while armed, Superior Court records show. His attorney, Karen Lockhart, declined to comment on the charges.

Police investigating a report of an overdose at about 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 21 found the two women in an apartment in the 600 block of Central Avenue. One was pronounced dead at the scene and the other died at a hospital. Garcia was detained there and later arrested after questioning.

Garcia is being held in lieu of $2 million bail and is next due in court on June 21.

Hearings will be held at the same time for three other cases: A vandalism charge, in which Garcia is accused of jumping on the windshield of his girlfriend’s car; a domestic violence charge, in which he is accused of choking his girlfriend; and a charge of theft by false pretenses, in which he is accused of recruiting two high school students via social media to cash checks for him that were later found to be fraudulent.

Fentanyl is a painkiller that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and is being mixed into pills with other substances such as oxycontin before illegally being sold to unsuspecting users. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there were more than 75,000 opioid overdose deaths, primarily from fentanyl, from April 2020 to 2021.

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