A man has been found guilty of second-degree murder for the 2020 fentanyl-related death of a 26-year-old woman in Temecula, marking the first such jury conviction in California history.
According to a release from the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, Vicente David Romero, 34, “split” a pill containing fentanyl with Kelsey King on June 16, 2020.
“During the five-day trial, the prosecution called ten witnesses to testify and showed body-worn camera footage in which Romero said he gave and split a pill known as a ‘blue’ or ‘M30’ with King, which he knew to contain fentanyl,” the Riverside County District Attorney’s office said.
Romero’s case is the first of 23 active homicide cases in Riverside County related to fentanyl poisonings to go to trial, the DA’s office said.
“Today, our office has successfully provided justice to a victim’s family by securing the first-ever guilty verdict by a jury in a fentanyl-related homicide trial in the state of California,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said. “This verdict is a testament to our unwavering commitment to protecting our communities, providing justice for victims and holding those accountable who engage in the distribution of illicit fentanyl resulting in death.”
In addition, Romero, who remains in custody at the Southwest Detention Center, also admitted to five additional charges, including possession of drugs while armed and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Romero’s sentencing is set for Oct. 6. If convicted of second-degree murder, he could face 15 years to life in prison. The additional charges carry a sentence of up to six years and eight months in prison.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is over 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is often added to other, more expensive illicit drugs because of its extreme potency, the Riverside County DA’s office said.