A man accused of selling the fentanyl-laced pills that killed a 29-year-old Norco resident must stand trial for second-degree murder, a judge ruled Monday.
Jacob Austin Parr, 43, was arrested in July following a monthslong Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation into the death of Isaak Quintin Ruiz.
At the end of a preliminary hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Matthew Perantoni found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on the murder count and scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for April 19.
Parr remains held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.
According to sheriff’s investigators, at 12:30 a.m. on April 23, deputies were sent to the 1400 block of Sixth Street in Norco to investigate reports of an unconscious man.
Ruiz was pronounced dead at the scene. His cause of death was later determined to be fentanyl poisoning.
Investigators ultimately identified Parr as the person who allegedly sold the fentanyl to the victim, culminating in his arrest on July 12.
Court records show the defendant, who is among nearly two dozen people countywide charged with murder for alleged fentanyl poisoning, has a prior misdemeanor conviction for driving under the influence, but no felonies.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced last week that newly aggregated data indicate almost 500 people countywide died from fentanyl poisoning in 2022. That compares to just under 400 in 2021, a 200-fold increase from 2016, when only two such fatalities were documented.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is manufactured in overseas labs, including in China, and according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it’s smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by cartels. It’s 80-100 times more potent than morphine and can be mixed into any number of street narcotics and prescription drugs, without a user knowing what he or she is consuming. Ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.
According to federal agencies, fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45 years old.