In a landmark case for California, a Temecula man was found guilty of second-degree murder for the fentanyl-related death of a 26-year-old woman.
On August 31, jurors found Vicente Vicente David Romero, 34, guilty in the fentanyl-related death of Kelsey King on June 16, 2020, in Temecula. It took the jury one day to return its verdict.
This is the first of 23 active homicide cases in Riverside County related to fentanyl poisonings to go to trial and is a landmark case in California in which a person who knowingly supplied fentanyl was convicted of murder.
“DDA Jerry Pfohl not only demonstrated that the law can be upheld in a fentanyl-related murder case but also established a precedent for future cases,” 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 this case, the prosecutors had to prove that the defendant knew the drug was deadly and still provided it to a victim in order to meet the threshold for murder. During the five-day trial, the prosecution called 10 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.
In an open plea to the court prior to the trial, Romero admitted to five additional charges, including possession of drugs while armed, being a convicted felon and drug addict in possession of a firearm, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Romero is scheduled to be sentenced on October 6. Second-degree murder carries a potential sentence of 15 years to life. The additional charges carry a sentence of up to six years, eight months in prison.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is more than 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.