A convicted felon accused of supplying a lethal dose of fentanyl to a 34-year-old Lake Elsinore man is slated to be arraigned Thursday on a second-degree murder charge.
James Dylan Hall, 36, of Lake Elsinore was arrested last month following a three-month Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation into the death of Jacob Soto.
Hall is scheduled to appear before Superior Court Judge Elaine Kiefer at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
The defendant is being held on $1 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Sean Liebrand, on the night of Sept. 5, deputies were sent to a residence in the 33100 block of Windward Way to investigate reports of an unconscious man.
Liebrand said paramedics pronounced Soto dead at the scene, and the ensuing autopsy determined he had been the victim of “fentanyl poisoning.”
“Over the next several months, the investigation was relentlessly worked, and … Hall was identified as being the suspect responsible for selling the fentanyl that killed Soto,” the sergeant said.
The probationer was taken into custody without incident on Nov. 30 in Wildomar.
The circumstances behind the transaction between Hall and the victim, including how they became acquainted, were not disclosed.
Court records show that Hall has prior convictions for possession of controlled substances, burglary, petty theft and smuggling drugs into a correctional facility.
According to sheriff’s officials, there have been 415 fentanyl-related deaths to date this year. In 2021, there were just over 400 — a 200-fold increase from 2016, when there were two documented poisonings.
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 over 80,000 of them.
The 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. Fentanyl is 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 2 milligrams can be fatal.
On Oct. 20, the county initiated a public awareness campaign, “The Faces of Fentanyl,” emphasizing the perils of using it. The campaign web portal, www.FacesOfFentanyl.net, offers resources, including substance abuse counseling options, that are available to residents countywide.