No charges in fentanyl poisoning deaths of 5 in Commerce City: DA

DENVER — There will be no charges in the case of the five people who died of fentanyl poisoning in Commerce City in February – an event that kicked off changes to Colorado law this year, 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian Mason announced Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, after six months of this intense undertaking, the evidence that exists today has not and will not lead us to an arrest or the filing of a charged case,” Mason said in a statement. “We will continue to investigate any new leads that may come in.”

On Feb. 20, Sabas Daniel Marquez, 24; Humberto Arroyo-Ledezma, 32; Karina Joy Rodriguez, 28; Stephine Sonya Monroe, 29; and Jennifer Danielle Cunningham, 32, died after taking what they believed was cocaine, but which contained fentanyl.

‘We expect her to walk in the door’: Fentanyl poisoning leaves Thornton family heartbroken

Karina Rodriguez’s family spoke with Denver7 about her in March, saying she left behind two children and calling for action against those lining the drugs they are selling with fentanyl.

The incident happened inside an apartment in the 14400 block of E. 104th Avenue on Feb. 20. A 29-year-old woman survived and was taken to a hospital, and the 4-month-old child of one of the people who died was unharmed, police said.

Mason and other law enforcement officials and lawmakers have called the five deaths “one of the largest mass incidents” involving fentanyl poisoning in the U.S.

Mason and his office said law enforcement agencies from across the area and state investigated the source of the drugs, along with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.

“My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who died in this tragic incident in February,” Mason said in a statement. “I want to thank all of the law enforcement agencies who spent hours investigating these deaths.”

At least 1,881 Coloradans died of drug overdoses and poisonings in 2021, and at least 1,100 of them involved some sort of opioid. At least 800 involved fentanyl in some form, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has said.

In-Depth: Commerce City fentanyl poisoning leading to new calls for action

And while lawmakers and law enforcement officials were already discussing more ways to address the rising fentanyl crisis before the February incident in Commerce City, the five deaths spurred an immediate push at the state Capitol and in law enforcement offices across the state to do more to try to crackdown on fentanyl.

The end result at the Capitol was a bill, finished in the final two hours of the legislative session, which makes it a felony for someone to possess a gram or more of a drug containing fentanyl and which strengthens penalties for distribution of fentanyl. The bill, which Gov. Polis signed in May, also includes millions for new addiction treatment and prevention services.

“There are many families with us today who suffered the ultimate loss. There are thousands of other victims across the state,” Polis said when signing the bill. “Of course victims deserve justice, but they also deserve leaders who demonstrate they’re doing everything possible to prevent additional deaths from fentanyl poisoning.”

The bill also received support from the sister of Karina Rodriguez. Feliz Sanchez-Garcia said the bill was “not just in honor of our loved ones, it’s for all those killed across Colorado and the country who have not had their voices heard.”

Mason and his office said investigators in the Commerce City case “followed numerous leads, reviewed surveillance video, conducted countless interviews, obtained and evaluated cell phone data, utilized DNA, and exhausted every possible piece of evidence that might lead to the source of the fentanyl that caused these deaths.”

Mason is expected to discuss the decision at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

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