Officials continue to warn the public about the fentanyl crisis here in Southern California.
News Channel 3’s Madison Weil spoke with one father looking to raise awareness — sharing his own heartbreaking story after losing his daughter.
“I got a call from my youngest daughter Sky...and she simply said Dad get home...Alex is dead,” said Matt Capelouto. “I rushed home...my wife had gone into her room and found her dead on her bed.”
Capelouto shares that his 20-year-old daughter Alex was a student at Arizona State University on a full-ride academic scholarship. She was home for Christmas break.
“Alex suffered from anxiety and depression heavily. She always bore the weight of the world on her shoulders,” he said.
Capelouto says it was just two days before Christmas in 2019 when she died. The initial investigation revealed she had communicated with a drug dealer on social media — not looking for fentanyl, rather oxycodone.
“Obviously no parent condones their child turning to anybody for any illicit drug, but nonetheless, she thought she was getting oxycodone. That’s what the drug dealer represented to her,” he said.
It’s a crisis Capelouto fears will take the lives of others.
“She took a pill late at night before going to bed. I believe she was just trying to self-medicate and get a good night’s sleep. And that drug dealer chose to peddle poison for profit and killed my daughter,” he said.
Capelouto participated in a press conference alongside Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin this month to raise awareness about the issue.
Hestrin says people are being sold counterfeit pills by dealers that look identical to legitimate pills: Valium, Percocet, oxycodone, etc. He says fentanyl has been found in every kind of drug, including cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy. The DEA estimates that 40% of pills being sold on the street right now are laced with fentanyl.
“These people are being poisoned. The deaths from fentanyl have been doubling year after year,” said Capelouto.
Hestrin says fentanyl deaths are up 800% locally because of it.
Capelouto says he took his daughter’s case to Mike Hestrin when it happened. “He listened, he heard us and he agreed with me at the time that this is murder.”
Capelouto’s story is just one of many that have led district attorneys across the state to take a more aggressive stance. Drug dealers can now face murder charges if someone dies.
“What is your message for parents and what would you encourage them to do?” asked Weil.
“If you cannot 100% guarantee that your child will not try one drug one time...you can’t guarantee that your child won’t be a victim of fentanyl,” said Capelouto, encouraging parents to have this conversation with their kids.
He added he’s incredibly grateful to District Attorney Mike Hestrin for his work on the pervasive problem. Capelouto says he and others impacted are currently working on a bill that would increase the penalties for drug dealers nationwide.
Anyone interested in working alongside their group is encouraged to reach out to him: firstname.lastname@example.org.