A San Jacinto man accused of supplying a fatal dose of fentanyl to a 23-year-old acquaintance made his initial court appearance Wednesday.
Samuel Leo Mussaw, also 23, was arrested Friday and booked into the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta, where he’s being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Mussaw is charged with second-degree murder and possession of controlled substances for sale.
He appeared before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst, who appointed him a public defender and scheduled his arraignment for Thursday at the Banning Justice Center.
According to Sgt. Rick Espinoza of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, deputies and paramedics were called to the 900 block of Cypress Drive, near Malaga Drive, at about noon last Thursday to investigate a possible drug overdose.
Espinoza said Adam Young of San Jacinto was found unconscious and unresponsive in the house, prompting first responders to attempt to revive him, unsuccessfully.
Further investigation revealed that Young had consumed pills containing fentanyl, and detectives were able to track down the alleged source — Mussaw — according to the sergeant.
The defendant and victim knew one another, but no other details were available.
Espinoza said a search warrant was procured and served at Mussaw’s residence in the 100 block of North Dillon Road, where three firearms, a stash of cash “and approximately 2,000 M-30 pills of fentanyl” were seized.
He was taken into custody without a struggle.
His was the third arrest in two weeks for alleged fentanyl sales that led to death.
The other two individuals — Raymond Gene Tyrrell of French Valley and Joseph Michael Costanza of Eastvale — have already been charged with second-degree murder in their respective cases and made court appearances.
Last month, Sheriff Chad Bianco and District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced a strategy to aggressively investigate and potentially file charges connected to all deaths stemming from fentanyl toxicity.
According to Hestrin, although overdose murder cases can be difficult to prosecute under current state law, the DA’s Office will not hesitate to seek justice whenever the evidence of culpability is clear.
Bianco cited statistics indicating fentanyl-induced fatalities shot up 300% countywide between 2018 and 2020.
Even a teaspoon-size dose of the synthetic opioid manufactured in China and smuggled across the Mexican border is known to be 80 to 100 times more potent than heroin, morphine and similar narcotics, according to the sheriff.
“All drugs and counterfeit pills are themselves deadly because they are often mixed with fentanyl, or a derivative of fentanyl,” Espinoza said. “These substances alone or mixed together can kill in very small doses.”
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