A man accused of selling a deadly dose of fentanyl to a 26-year-old Lake Elsinore resident is due to be arraigned next week on a second-degree murder charge.
Everardo Martinez Rodriguez, 30, of Lake Elsinore was arrested last week following a nearly two-month-long Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation.
Rodriguez made his initial court appearance Tuesday and was ordered by Superior Court Judge Elaine Kiefer to return to the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta for arraignment on March 18.
The defendant is being held on $1 million bail at the nearby Byrd Detention Center.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Marcuse, on Jan. 5, deputies and paramedics were called to a residence in the 29000 block of Central Avenue, near Conrad Avenue, to investigate reports of a possible drug-related cardiac arrest.
Gavin Battle was found dead at the location, Marcuse said, adding that an autopsy revealed “fentanyl poisoning” as the cause of death, prompting an investigation that ultimately pointed to Rodriguez as the alleged “person responsible for selling” an undisclosed quantity of the synthetic opioid to Battle.
An arrest warrant was obtained and served by deputies on March 4 at the defendant’s home on Limited Avenue, where he was taken into custody without incident.
Rodriguez has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County. However, he has a misdemeanor vandalism conviction from 2012, according to court records.
Fentanyl 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.
To date, a dozen people have been charged with second-degree murder in the county for allegedly selling fentanyl that killed the recipients.