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Man sentenced in landmark fentanyl-related homicide case


November 3, 2023

A Temecula man will spend 15 years to life in prison for the fentanyl-related homicide of a 26-year-old woman three years ago.

The murder case, SWF2007390, was prosecuted by Deputy DA Jerry Pfohl of the DA’s Homicide Division, and was the first of 25 active fentanyl-related homicide cases in Riverside County to go to trial.

It is also a milestone case in California, in which a person who knowingly supplied fentanyl was convicted of murder by a jury.

Judge Timothy Freer sentenced Vicente David Romero, DOB: 2-20-89, today, remarking, “It should be known far and wide, that the district attorney, that’s Mr. Hestrin, and his deputy, Mr. Pfohl, who prosecuted this case, along with the sheriff’s office, that’s Chad Bianco, and the deputies who testified, they will aggressively investigate and prosecute individuals for furnishing fentanyl causing death.  That should be abundantly clear.  They will seek murder charges in this case.  They will obtain convictions.”  

On Aug. 31, jurors at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta took one day to find Romero guilty of second-degree murder in the fentanyl-related death of Kelsey King on June 16, 2020, in Temecula.   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. 

“Drug-induced homicide is homicide. Today’s sentencing not only reflects the gravity of what happened to Kelsey King, but what continues to happen to so many men and women in our community because of the skyrocketing rates of illicit fentanyl sales,” said District Attorney Mike Hestrin.  “Our office is prosecuting the largest volume of fentanyl-related homicides in the state because we firmly believe those who knowingly endanger the lives of others must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.” 

In this case, prosecutors presented evidence that Romero met King for the first time on the day of the murder and provided her with a pill known as a ‘blue’ or M30, which he knew to contain fentanyl.  Romero also admitted to investigators that he knew how dangerous fentanyl was, and that he had overdosed while using the drug before.

“The crime of murder looks at the indecency of an act that causes death and the inhumanity of doing such an act knowing it is dangerous to human life,” said Deputy District Attorney Jerry Pfohl. “In the process to get to this point, we have been ever mindful to our obligations to the law and to justice. In this case, we are pleased that justice was able to be done.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is so strong it can be lethal in doses as little as 1/2,500 of a teaspoon, and the CDC now lists fentanyl as the leading cause of death among Americans ages 18-45.  The latest analysis by the DEA found that seven out of every 10 fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills contained a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl, a dramatic increase from 2021, when four out of every 10 pills was found to contain a potentially deadly dose. 

Additional information about the fentanyl epidemic and prosecutions in Riverside County is available at: and