A man was charged with murder after two Riverside women died of fentanyl overdoses:- A 22-year-old man is the first person in the city to be charged with murder involving an overdose of fentanyl after two women died that way, the Riverside Police Department said. The charges against Peter Luis Mera Garcia were filed on February 24, three days after the deaths of Sierra Rianne Rangel, 22, and Arrena Marie Mariotti, 21.
Police did not confirm the arrest until Wednesday, April 27, as they were awaiting confirmation from the Riverside County Coroner’s Office that the women died of fentanyl, said Constable Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for the Department of police.
Garcia is the first person charged with murder in a fentanyl overdose in the city, Railsback said. District Attorney Mike Hestrin is pursuing about 15 such murder cases throughout the county. District attorneys in Orange and San Bernardino counties are also prosecuting some fatal fentanyl overdoses as murder.
On April 20, Garcia pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and one count of possession of fentanyl while armed, Superior Court records show. His attorney, Karen Lockhart, declined to comment on the charges.
Police investigating an overdose report around 10:15 a.m. on February 21 found the two women in an apartment on the 600 block of Central Avenue. One was pronounced dead at the scene and the other died in hospital. Garcia was detained there and then arrested after questioning.
Garcia is being held in lieu of a $2 million bond and is due in court on June 21.
Hearings will be held at the same time for three other cases: A vandalism charge, in which Garcia is accused of jumping on the windshield of his girlfriend’s car; a domestic violence charge, in which he is accused of choking his girlfriend; and a charge of theft by false pretense, in which he is accused of recruiting two high school students via social media to cash checks for him that were later found to be fraudulent.
Fentanyl is a painkiller 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and is mixed into pills with other substances such as oxycontin before being sold illegally to unsuspecting users. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there have been more than 75,000 opioid overdose deaths, mostly from fentanyl, from April 2020 to 2021.