Photo by bloomsberries / via Flickr

A drug dealer who sold a counterfeit oxycodone pill laced with fentanyl to a man who died in Poway after smoking part of it pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and will be sentenced to 15 years in state prison next month, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced Monday.

Alfredo Lemus Jr. 31, was charged with murder in the Nov. 16, 2016, overdose death of 26-year-old Richard Summerfruit.

As part of a plea bargain reached Friday, Lemus pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge, as well as selling a controlled substance, possession for sale of a controlled substance and possession of a firearm by a felon. Formal sentencing is scheduled for June 1.

“We’re seeing a dangerous trend of drug dealers and cartels cutting various drugs at times disguised as painkillers with fentanyl and increasingly it’s a recipe for death,” Stephan said. “This first-of-its-kind prosecution sends a message that when you sell fentanyl to another human being, you are literally providing them with toxic poison that can kill them in a matter of seconds. Even a tiny amount of fentanyl can be deadly, which is why we’re working with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department to address this disturbing trend.”

Sheriff Bill Gore said deputies began an investigation into who sold the drugs to the victim after responding to a radio call.

“Through tireless investigation they proved Alfredo Lemus knowingly sold drugs containing the lethal opiate fentanyl to not only the victim in Poway, but to numerous others, as well,” Gore said. “I am grateful for the work of the Medical Examiner, District Attorney and our other partners to bring this killer to justice. The Sheriff’s Department instituted an overdose response protocol so that all overdose deaths are fully investigated by deputies and the suppliers of deadly drugs are brought to justice. This case is but one example of this proactive approach.”

The plea comes as more people are dying each year in San Diego County from accidental overdose or substance abuse intoxication of opioids, part of a national epidemic. Deaths specifically from fentanyl in San Diego County are spiking, with more than 40 fatal overdoses last year alone, authorities said.

In 2016, 544 people died of unintentional drug and alcohol overdoses in San Diego County, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office. About half of those deaths are attributed to opioids, including heroin, fentanyl and prescription drugs such as oxycodone, Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and deadly in small doses, officials said.

—City News Service

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