A Norco man suspected of selling narcotics to a 29-year-old man who subsequently died of fentanyl poisoning pleaded not guilty to murder Thursday.

Jacob Austin Parr, 43, was charged on July 14 with one felony count of murder. He pleaded not guilty to the charge on Thursday.

Parr was arrested on July 12 and booked into the Southwest Center in Murrieta. He was being held on $1 million bail.

According to the sheriff’s department, at about 12:30 a.m. on April 23, deputies responded to the 1400 block of Sixth Street in Norco to a report of an unresponsive male. Isaak Quintin Ruiz, 29, was pronounced dead at the scene and his cause of death was determined to be fentanyl poisoning.

Investigators ultimately identified Parr as the person who allegedly sold the fentanyl to Ruiz, leading to his arrest on July 12, sheriff’s officials said.

Fentanyl is manufactured in overseas labs and according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it’s smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by drug cartels. The substance is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and is a popular additive, mixed into any number of narcotics and pharmaceuticals. The ingestion of just two milligrams can be fatal.

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin recently told the Board of Supervisors that there were nearly 500 fentanyl-induced deaths countywide in 2021, which represents a 250-fold increase from 2016, when only two such fatalities were documented.

Statistics published in May by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed there were roughly 108,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, and fentanyl poisoning accounted for more than 80,000 of them.

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