A man suspected of selling a deadly dose of fentanyl to a 36-year-old Calimesa resident, who later died, was behind bars Monday, March 21.
Gregory Robert Oviatt, 34, of Redlands, was arrested Sunday, March 20, and booked into the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning on suspicion of second-degree murder in connection with the death of Eric Lopez. Oviatt was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
According to Riverside County sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Marcuse, Oviatt was linked to Lopez’s death following a nearly two-month investigation.
Marcuse said that on the morning of Jan. 27, deputies and paramedics were called to a residence in the 10000 block of Desert Lawn Drive, near Brookside Avenue, to investigate reports of a possible drug-related cardiac arrest.
The victim was found dead at the location, Marcuse said, adding that an autopsy revealed “fentanyl poisoning” as the cause of the fatality, prompting an investigation that ultimately pointed to Oviatt as the alleged dealer who supplied an undisclosed quantity of the synthetic opioid to Lopez.
An arrest warrant was obtained and served by deputies Sunday afternoon at the suspect’s home on Oak Valley Road, where he was taken into custody without incident.
Fentanyl is manufactured in foreign labs and primarily smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The drug is known to be 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is a popular additive, seamlessly mixed into any number of narcotics and pharmaceuticals, according to public safety officials.
Sheriff Chad Bianco said there were about 500 fentanyl-induced deaths countywide last year, which represents a 250-fold increase from 2016, when only two such fatalities were documented.
To date, a dozen people have been charged with second-degree murder in the county for allegedly selling fentanyl with deadly outcomes.