A felon accused of selling a deadly dose of fentanyl to a 36-year-old Calimesa man was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder.

Gregory Robert Oviatt, 34, of Redlands, was arrested Sunday and booked into the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning following a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation into the death of Eric Lopez.

Oviatt, who is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, was slated to make his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon at the Banning Justice Center.

The defendant is the 14th person in the last 13 months who has been charged with murder in the county for allegedly selling fentanyl with a deadly outcome.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Marcuse, Oviatt was linked to Lopez’s death following a nearly two-month investigation.

Marcuse said that on the morning of Jan. 27, deputies and paramedics were sent to a residence in the 10000 block of Desert Lawn Drive, near Brookside Avenue, in response to reports of a possible drug-related cardiac arrest.

Lopez was found dead at the location, Marcuse said, adding that an autopsy revealed “fentanyl poisoning” as the cause of the fatality, prompting an investigation that ultimately pointed to Oviatt as the alleged dealer who supplied an undisclosed quantity of the synthetic opioid to the victim.

An arrest warrant was obtained and served by deputies Sunday afternoon at the defendant’s home on Oak Valley Road, where he was taken into custody without incident.

According to court records, he has prior convictions for grand theft, possession of controlled substances and hit-and-run resulting in property damage.

Fentanyl is manufactured in foreign labs and primarily smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border. The drug is known to be 80-100 times more potent than morphine and is a popular additive, mixed into any number of narcotics and pharmaceuticals, according to public safety officials.

According to Sheriff Chad Bianco, there were about 500 fentanyl-induced deaths countywide last year, representing a 250-fold increase from 2016, when only two such fatalities were documented.

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