A 31-year-old probationer accused of supplying fentanyl to a Winchester man who died after ingesting the synthetic opioid was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder.

Justin Lee Kail of Winchester was arrested Friday following a monthslong investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department into the death of 27-year-old Ernie Gutierrez.

Kail, who is being held on $1 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center, is slated to make his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.

Specific details regarding how Kail and the victim knew one another and the circumstances behind the deadly ingestion were not provided.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Marcuse said that Gutierrez was found dead from fentanyl poisoning at a property in the 3000 block of Benton Street on the evening of Aug. 24, 2021.

Kail is the 11th person charged with second-degree murder in Riverside County over the last year in connection with a fentanyl fatality.

Fentanyl is manufactured in China and smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border. The synthetic drug is known to be 80-100 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.

Legislation authored by Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, facilitating murder or manslaughter prosecutions against drug dealers who sell fentanyl with lethal results has twice been quashed by the state Senate Committee on Public Safety for unspecified reasons.

Some prosecutors have proceeded with filing murder charges anyway, including Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin and Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.

Last month, Hestrin said “profit and greed” had led Mexican drug cartels to transport fentanyl pills in massive quantities across the border, where law enforcement is “not getting any help” in stemming the tide.

According to court records, Kail has prior misdemeanor convictions for possession of drug paraphernalia and identity theft

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