Santa Cruz man gets 10 years in prison for drugging 16-year-old girl with fentanyl
A California A man who gave Percocet laced with fentanyl and other drugs to a 16-year-old girl who died of an overdose was found guilty Tuesday and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Michael James Russell, 24, was found guilty of seven felonies in connection with the death of 16-year-old Emma Lace Price, who died Nov. 12 with four different drugs.
Prosecutors said Russell gave Price Xanax and Percocet with fentanyl, and when she began to overdose, took off her clothes and put her in a cold shower to wake her up. He also gave her Narcan, but waited half an hour to call 911.
In August, Price’s parents filed a civil lawsuit against Russell and his parents asserting that the man had “a history of preying on and drugging young/underage girls.” They also claim his parents knew about it and allowed “sex and drugs” in their home.
In an interview last fall, the girl’s mother, Jill Price, said “it’s killing me right now, I feel an anger I’ve never felt before” about her death.
This is 16-year-old Emma Lace Price, who died of an overdose at the home of 23-year-old Michael James Russell. At the time of his death, Price had four narcotics in his system.
Michael James Price, 23, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on the charge of overdosing on Price
Initial investigation after the girl’s death, it was revealed that Russell was one of several people who had drugged Price in the days before her death.
On the night she died, Russell gave her Xanax and Percocet with fentanyl, leading to an overdose.
Emma later died of acute fentanyl poisoning, according to an autopsy.
An investigation conducted by local journalists showed that the girl’s death could have been completely prevented.
Six weeks before Price’s death, the Watsonville Police Department received a call from a young woman who said Russell had molested her and sold Percocet with fentanyl to another girl, who died.
Watsonville is just 10 miles from the Coralito home where Price was found dead and is in Santa Cruz County.
The girl said the police dismissed her claims as “old drama”.
Watsonville police said NBC Bay Area in July they support the actions of the responding officer.
Prosecutors said Russell and those inside the home waited half an hour to call 911 to report Price’s overdose
Russell tried to give Price CPR and gave her Narcan after the overdose
In an interview last fall, the girl’s mother, Jill Price, said “it’s killing me right now, I feel an anger I’ve never felt before” about her death
Russell was charged with seven counts related to the overdose death and sexual activity with Price and another minor girl.
Russell was previously accused of selling Percocet with fentanyl to another girl
Despite this claim, Russell was not directly charged in the girl’s death.
According to local reports, the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office considered additional charges, but said they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was responsible for her death.
In 2022, Emma’s father, Michael Price, said he hoped they would add new charges to the man’s case.
I would [like to see] murder or manslaughter [charges]”, he said NBC Bay area.
The local television station spoke with Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who said at the time that the state attorney’s office only pursued homicide and manslaughter charges in some cases.
“If we can prove that the drug dealer knew how dangerous fentanyl was — knew that people could die from just a small amount or a single use — and still sold it to put profit over human life,” Rosen said.
After her death, Price’s parents filed a civil lawsuit against Russell and his parents, accusing him of “preying on young/underage girls.”
In a statement to NBC Bay Area in 2022, Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Johanna Schonfield said she could not speak to the specifics of the case, but said the department is working to increase awareness and education.
“Death is too late for me [it to be] focus, to be the focus; the tragedy has already happened,” she said.
“I think the focus needs to be upstream… Why do people use drugs? Why do children actively search for drugs on the Internet?” said the DA’s assistant.
Schonfield also said their main focus is on stopping future incidents and bringing those responsible to jail.
“We bring drug traffickers to justice. The District Prosecutor’s Office strives to achieve justice,” she said.
A former police detective said he had never seen such a “high level of indifference” in a case like Price’s death
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department initially faced backlash for handling the case.
In July, six deputies and detectives appeared in court to detail the events of Price’s death, revealing it took them four days to call the girl’s death suspicious.
Two sheriff’s investigators at the crime scene said they were assigned only days after her overdose, when she The body has already been removed from the scene, the witnesses have left, and the prosecution’s alleged evidence may have been tampered with and destroyed.
“I believe that this can really be called a gross violation of police conduct. This is an investigation that was not taken seriously from the beginning, said retired San Jose Police Detective Michael Leininger.
‘[Deputies] has shown a high level of indifference in this investigation that I have never seen before,” he said.
One item that may have been tampered with was Price’s phone, which Price may have tried to destroy.
Prosecutors later added a charge of destruction of evidence to his case.
Russell pleaded not guilty to all seven counts.
In August, Michael and Jill Price filed a civil lawsuit against Russell and his parents, directly accusing them of responsibility for their daughter’s death.
In the civil suit, Price’s mother and father claim that “Lace Price suffered an acute drug overdose as a result of ingesting fentanyl-laced drugs given to her by Mikey Russell.”
The lawsuit accuses Russell’s parents of knowing their son had “a history of preying on young/underage girls” and allowing “sex and drugs” in their home.
“Lace Price’s parents have filed this civil lawsuit to get the full story of what happened to their young daughter, to prevent it from happening to another, and to bring those responsible to justice,” attorney Leslie Harris said in a statement.
“Lace’s parents want and deserve to know what happened,” Harris said.
The next hearing on this case is scheduled for March 6.