(CNS) – A 36-year-old man accused of supplying two Riverside County residents with lethal doses of fentanyl pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts of second-degree murder.
Christopher Michael Koppa of San Diego was arrested in August following a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation into the deaths of 30-year-old Devahn Reed of Canyon Lake and 34-year-old Patrick Schwab of Lake Elsinore.
Koppa was arraigned before Superior Court Judge Elaine Kiefer, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Nov. 17 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta and ordered that the defendant remain held on $2 million bail at the nearby Byrd Detention Center.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Ben Ramirez, Reed’s death occurred on the night of Aug. 25, 2018, at a residence in the 22000 block of Hoofbeat Way in Canyon Lake.
Deputies were sent to the location to investigate reports of a man down and discovered the victim deceased, though it required further investigation to identify the cause of death, which Ramirez said was ultimately determined to be “fentanyl poisoning.”
“Koppa … was identified as the suspect responsible for selling the fentanyl that killed Reed,” the sergeant said.
He alleged detectives also linked Koppa directly to the death of Schwab, who suffered a fatal fentanyl ingestion on the night of Sept. 11, 2018, in the 31000 block of Cedarhill Lane in Lake Elsinore,
The specific circumstances behind each fatality, and how the men acquired the fentanyl, allegedly from the defendant, were not disclosed. Authorities also didn’t specify why the investigations required four years to complete.
Koppa has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County, but he does have two unresolved drug-related misdemeanor cases pending.
Since February 2021, the District Attorney’s Office has filed murder charges against nearly 20 people for alleged fentanyl poisoning deaths.
The synthetic opioid is manufactured in overseas labs, including in China, and according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it’s smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by drug cartels. The substance is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and is a popular additive, mixed into any number of narcotics and pharmaceuticals. The ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.
According to county public safety officials, in 2021, there were nearly 400 fentanyl-induced deaths countywide, representing a 200-fold increase from 2016, when two such fatalities were documented.
Statistics published in May by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed there were roughly 108,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, and fentanyl poisoning accounted for over 80,000 of them.
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