The Riverside County District Attorney's office has added murder charges to the toddler father, Adler Metcalf.
A round of drug testing found that Metcalf had marijuana and fentanyl in his system, while Acuna also had fentanyl in her system. The couple's 4- month-old daughter had marijuana in her system, according to court documents.
Investigators concluded that Metcalf and Acuna were giving fentanyl and marijuana to both children, court papers stated.
Original Story 11/12/21:
The parents of a 15-month-old who died of a fentanyl overdose were arrested on suspicion of murder, sheriff's officials announced on Thursday.
The case dates back to Sept. 1, 2020, when emergency crews responded to a call of a 15-month-old toddler who was not breathing at a Jurupa Valley home. Deputies arrived at the scene and immediately administered medical aid to the toddler, who was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
Investigators from the Jurupa Valley Station and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Overdose Death Investigations and Narcotics Unit determined the toddler was a victim of homicide due to a Fentanyl overdose.
After an investigation that lasted several months, authorities determined that the fentanyl that killed the child belonged to the parents. The pair has been identified as Adler Metcalf, 22, and Sandy Acuna, 20, both Jurupa Valley residents.
Acuna and Metcalf were arrested on Wednesday and booked into jail on suspicion of murder.
Acuna has been charged with murder and felony child endangerment. Metcalf has been charged with felony child endangerment, according to John Hall, public information officer for the Riverside County District Attorney's office.
The parents are scheduled to appear in court on November 15.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
On Tuesday, Riverside County DA Mike Hestrin joined Orange County DA Todd Spitzer in announcing that those who manufacture or sell the fentanyl can be charged with murder if someone dies after ingesting or being exposed to it.
Hestrin told News Channel 3's Madison Weil on Wednesday that fentanyl deaths are up by more than 800% in the last five years. The DA attributed the skyrocketing deaths, in part, due to how cheap fentanyl is to produce
In 2016, there were two fentanyl-related deaths in the county. This year, they expect to see between 500-600 deaths.
“We’re seeing fentanyl pouring into our region. It’s an incredibly lethal substance,” he said.
The Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner's office told News Channel 3 on Tuesday that there have been 280 fentanyl-related deaths so far this year, however, that could number could continue to grow as there are cases are pending a toxicology report.
Last year, there were 227 fentanyl-related deaths in Riverside County, according to Hestrin's office.
With this latest arrest, the Riverside County DA's Office is prosecuting nine fentanyl-related murder cases.
Fentanyl is being found in all kinds of drugs: from cocaine, methamphetamines, even anti-anxiety or sleeping medications.
Hestrin said cartels now have the ability to create pills that look identical to regulated pills like Percocet or Valium — citing the case of one 21-year-old boy who died after taking Percocet from a friend. Neither of them knew it was laced with fentanyl.
“And his friend said, hey you know...take this...but just take half. Bite it in half and it will help you sleep. Well he did that and he never woke up," said Hestrin.
He says the DEA estimates that up to 40% of counterfeit pills on the street right now contain a fatal dose.
Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing coverage on this case.