In what may be the shape of things to come, a 21-year-old Placer County man was sentenced to 15 years on a second-degree murder charge Tuesday, the first time a fentanyl provider has been sentenced for murder in the state of California.
While San Francisco is seeing record numbers of overdose deaths fueled largely by fentanyl, this is an increasingly deadly problem statewide, and of course, across the country. Some counties’ district attorneys (like Brooke Jenkins here in San Francisco) have moved to charge fentanyl dealers with murder. And in Placer County, that test case has passed.
KTVU reports that the first murder sentence has been handed down to a fentanyl provider in the state of California, as 21-year-old Nathaniel Cabacungan was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Tuesday. Cabacungan had been convicted in July for providing the fentanyl that killed his 15-year-old girlfriend Jewels Wolf in June of 2022.
"Tragically, we made history here in Placer County with the conviction of Mr. Cabacungan. This is not an honor we wanted, nor one that Jewels’s family deserved," Placer County DA Morgan Gire said at a Tuesday press conference. "Today is not a celebration. It is a reflection and recognition of what we are doing, and what we will continue to do for our residents in Placer."
The occasion was notable enough that California Attorney General Rob Bonta also issued a statement.
"We hope that today’s sentencing brings some sense of closure to this young woman’s family," Bonta said in the press release. "Let this be a warning to the poison peddlers in California's neighborhoods: We will hold you accountable. I want to thank the Placer County District Attorney and our law enforcement partners in Placer County for working with us to make our community safe."
According to Bonta’s release, Cabacungan provided the victim Wolf with "fake M-30 pills that resulted in her fentanyl overdose death." M-30 pills are generally thought to be oxycodone, so Wolf likely did not expect she would be consuming fentanyl.
Placer County had previously convicted a fentanyl dealer of involuntary manslaughter last year, according to the Chronicle. A separate Chronicle report notes that according to that county DA’s office, "In Placer County, we saw a 450% increase in fentanyl deaths from 2019-2021."
Image: Placer County Public Meetings via Youtube