California woman charged with murder in deadly fentanyl poisoning

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(FRESNO, Calif.) — A California woman has been charged with murder for allegedly selling fentanyl-laced pills involved in the death of a Fresno resident earlier this year.

Jade Dreith, 41, died of fentanyl poisoning in January, according to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.

Following a nine-month investigation, the district attorney’s office has charged two Fresno residents in connection with Dreith’s death, including the woman prosecutors allege sold Dreith the pills two days before she was found dead after her family requested a welfare check.

Cassidy Marie Gonzalez, 21, was charged with first-degree murder, and Alejandro Valverde-Nuno, 25, was charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly harboring, concealing or aiding Gonzalez to “avoid and escape from arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment” for the murder, according to the criminal complaint.

“We’ve alleged that Cassidy furnished the deadly M30 pills that killed Jade Dreith, and that she had the requisite knowledge that fentanyl was dangerous to human life and provided the pills anyway,” Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said during a press briefing Tuesday announcing the charges.

Smittcamp said this marks the county’s first murder case for the sale of counterfeit pills. Other counties in California, including Riverside and San Diego, have had similar cases, she said.

“This is murder without using a weapon. This is murder without using a firearm. The weapon is fentanyl,” Smittcamp said. “They know that this pill can kill people and they continue to sell it.”

Both Gonzalez and Valverde-Nuno were also charged with counts related to the possession and sale of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

The district attorney said the victim’s family was “crucial” in obtaining evidence to bring forward the murder charge.

“I want to seek justice for her,” her sister, Sage Dreith, said during the press briefing. “She was only 41 years old — she had a life to live.”

Dreith believed she was taking a painkiller that would relieve her chronic back pain and “fell asleep and never woke up,” according to her sister.

“If bringing out her death and telling all of you about it prevents somebody else from dying, prevents another family from losing their sister, then it’s worth it to me,” Sage Dreith said. “I am not going to allow her to have died in vain.”

Gonzalez and Valverde-Nuno are scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 1. ABC News was unable to reach an attorney for either suspect.

If convicted on all charges, Gonzalez faces a sentence of up to 25 years to life in prison and Valverde-Nuno a sentence of eight years in prison.

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