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In first of its kind verdict in California, man found guilty in fentanyl-related homicide


August 31, 2023

In a landmark case for California, a jury has found a Temecula man guilty of second-degree murder for the fentanyl-related death of a 26-year-old woman.

On Aug. 31 jurors at Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta found Vicente David Romero, DOB: 2-20-89, guilty in the fentanyl-related death of Kelsey King on June 16, 2020, in Temecula. It took the jury one day to return the verdict to Judge Timothy Freer.

“Today, our office has successfully provided justice to a victim’s family by securing the first-ever guilty verdict by a jury in a fentanyl-related homicide trial in the state of California,” said District Attorney Mike Hestrin. “DDA Jerry Pfohl not only demonstrated that the law can be upheld in a fentanyl-related murder case but also established a precedent for future cases. This verdict is a testament to our unwavering commitment to protecting our communities, providing justice for victims, and holding those accountable who engage in the distribution of illicit fentanyl resulting in death. “ 

This is the first of 23 active homicide cases in Riverside County related to fentanyl poisonings to go to trial and is a landmark case in California in which a person who knowingly supplied fentanyl was convicted of murder. 

In this case, the prosecutors had to prove that the defendant knew the drug was deadly and still provided it to a victim in order to meet the threshold for murder. During the five-day trial, the prosecution called 10 witnesses to testify and showed body-worn camera footage in which Romero said he gave and split a pill known as a ‘blue’ or M30, with King, which he knew to contain fentanyl.  

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is more than 50 times stronger than heroin, and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is often added to other, more expensive illicit drugs because of its extreme potency.

In an open plea to the court prior to the trial, Romero admitted to five additional charges, including possession of drugs while armed, being a convicted felon and drug addict in possession of a firearm, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Romero remains in custody at the Southwest Detention Center. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 6. Second-degree murder carries a potential sentence of 15 years to life. The additional charges carry of sentence of up to six years, eight months in prison. 

The murder case, SWF2007390, was prosecuted by Deputy DA Jerry Pfohl of the DA’s Homicide Division.