UPDATED: Man, 37, Suspected of Supplying Lethal Dose of Fentanyl to be Arraigned

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

INDIO (CNS) – A 37-year-old man suspected of supplying a lethal dose of fentanyl to a 30-year-old man in Palm Desert pleaded not guilty to murder Thursday.

Gregory Michael Gauto of Palm Desert was charged June 6 and pleaded not guilty Thursday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

Deputies from the Palm Desert sheriff’s station responded Sept. 26, 2022, to the 46900 block of state Route 74 to a report of a dead man — identified in court documents as Brandon Brower — according to Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Master Investigator Robert Cornett. The man was found dead from a suspected fentanyl poisoning.

After conducting the initial investigation, deputies turned the probe over to the Special Investigations Bureau Overdose Death Investigations and Narcotics Team, according to Cornett.

According to a declaration in support of Gauto’s arrest warrant filed by Cornett, investigators examined a cell phone and found messages from Brower asking an unidentified woman for fentanyl pills. When she says she’s stuck in Palm Springs, Brower allegedly starts to call Gauto.

“There were messages consistent with Gregory driving to Brandon’s house to trade fentanyl for Klonopins,” Cornett alleged in the warrant. “The messages show that Gregory arrived at Brandon’s house and he delivered the fentanyl to Brandon. Gregory even tells Brandon to `Be careful.”‘

Brower had deleted all of the messages from his phone, but some were recovered by the department’s software, according to Cornett. Gauto was also allegedly found to be at Brower’s apartment at 4:16 a.m. Sept. 26, 2022, based on location services.

During an interview with Gauto, he allegedly mentioned that he was at Brower’s apartment that morning and got Klonopins from him, Cornett said. He also mentioned that one of his friends died from fentanyl, which was confirmed by the Coroner’s Bureau.

Cornett said he additionally found records of previous messages in which Gauto allegedly said that two or three of his friends died from fentanyl in the past years, prior to when Brower was provided the deadly dose.

Gauto was arrested June 7 near the intersection of Plaza Way and Highway 111 in Palm Desert, according to inmate records. He was booked into the John J. Benoit Detention Center in Indio, where he remains held on $1 million bail.

Anyone with information on the death investigation was asked to call Cornett at 951-955-1700.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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