A probationer accused of supplying a deadly dose of fentanyl to a 29-year-old Lake Mathews man was charged today with second-degree murder.
John Frederick Sandoval, 28, of Jurupa Valley was arrested last week following a nearly four-month-long Riverside County Sheriff's Department investigation into the death of Gorge Sandoval, a possible but unconfirmed relative of the defendant.
John Sandoval is being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail and was slated to make his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
According to sheriff's Sgt. Sean Liebrand, on the morning of April 7, patrol deputies and paramedics were called to the victim's residence in the 22000 block of Piedras Road, near Gavilan Road, to investigate reports of an unconscious man.
Deputies attempted life-saving measures on Gorge Sandoval until paramedics arrived and continued to try the resuscitative measures to no avail. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
"The coroner's bureau later determined that Gorge died as a result of fentanyl poisoning, and the case was assumed by the sheriff's Overdose Investigations & Narcotics Unit,'' Liebrand said. "As a result of their efforts, the suspect was identified as John Sandoval."
A search warrant was obtained and served in early June at John Sandoval's residence in the 8400 block of Saddle Creek Drive, where deputies "deputies seized two kilos of suspected fentanyl,'' the sergeant said.
He said that Sandoval was booked into jail on drug-related charges, not for murder, as the investigation was incomplete. The defendant pleaded guilty on June 20 to two counts of possession of controlled substances for sale, as well as being a narcotic addict in possession of a firearm and possession of an assault rifle.
Sandoval was sentenced to two years' felony probation.
By the end of last month, detectives had gathered sufficient evidence to request that prosecutors file a murder charge against him, resulting in his arrest on Thursday.
In addition to the recent conviction, Sandoval also has a prior misdemeanor conviction for driving under the influence.
Since February 2021, roughly two dozen individuals countywide have been charged with murder in connection with fentanyl poisonings. Last week, the District Attorney's Office won its first second-degree murder conviction against a fentanyl dealer, Vicente David Romero, who provided a fatal dose of the synthetic opioid to a 26-year-old Temecula woman in 2020.
According to public safety officials, there were 503 confirmed fentanyl-related fatalities countywide last year, compared to just under 400 in 2021, a 200-fold increase from 2016, when there were only two.
Fentanyl is manufactured in overseas labs, principally in China, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which says the substance is 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 two milligrams can be fatal.
Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans between 18 and 45 years old, statistics show.