MURRIETA (CNS) – A 52-year-old man accused of selling a lethal dose of fentanyl to a Temecula resident pleaded not guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder.
Kevin Michael Bryant of Carlsbad allegedly provided 43-year-old Cameron Trask with the fentanyl-laced pills that precipitated his death on Feb. 12.
Bryant was apprehended without incident on Feb. 26 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.
He was arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Elaine Kiefer, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for April 19 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
The defendant is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the nearby Byrd Detention Center.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Sean Liebrand, on the night of Feb. 12, patrol deputies were called to a business in the 27500 block of Jefferson Avenue in Temecula to investigate reports of a man down and found Trask dead.
Liebrand said an autopsy performed soon afterward confirmed that the victim “died as a result of fentanyl poisoning,” at which point homicide detectives took over the investigation and “worked relentlessly” until identifying Bryant “as the suspect responsible for selling the fentanyl that killed Trask.”
An arrest warrant was obtained, culminating in the defendant being taken into custody at the southern border.
Bryant is one of nearly two dozen defendants in Riverside County charged since February 2021 with second-degree murder stemming from fentanyl poisoning.
He has no documented prior felony convictions in the county.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced at the end of February that newly aggregated data indicate almost 500 people countywide died from fentanyl poisoning in 2022. That compares to just under 400 in 2021, a 200-fold increase from 2016, when only two such fatalities were documented.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is manufactured in overseas labs, including in China, and according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it is smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by cartels. It’s 80-100 times more potent than morphine and can be mixed into any number of street narcotics and prescription drugs, without a user knowing what he or she is consuming. Ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.
According to federal agencies, fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45 years old.
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