Man charged in alleged fentanyl death at jail

Dec. 9—A murder charge was filed Thursday against a man who allegedly supplied fentanyl to a Yuba County Jail inmate who later died as a result of ingesting the fatal synthetic opioid, officials said.

Yuba County District Attorney Clint Curry filed the murder charge against 44-year-old Aaron Henning for the in-custody death of Matthew Perez at the jail.

Henning was scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday, but that was continued to Dec. 12.

On Nov. 2, Perez was pronounced dead at Adventist Health/Rideout Hospital in Marysville after correctional officers at the jail were "alerted of an inmate in distress," according to officials from the Yuba County Sheriff's Office. The officers provided emergency medical treatment until paramedics arrived and multiple life-saving efforts were made, including repeated doses of Narcan, which can reverse the deadly effects of fentanyl, officials previously said.

"The completed toxicology report indicates Perez died from fentanyl poisoning," the department previously said in a statement. "It is unclear how the synthetic opioid made its way into the Yuba County Jail, however the investigation is still on-going."

After an investigation by Yuba County Sheriff's Office detectives, Henning was identified as the person who allegedly "smuggled" the fentanyl possibly used by Perez into the jail. Officials said another inmate also was allegedly "poisoned by the fentanyl, but survived due to life-saving efforts of jail and medical staff."

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and has been linked to an increase in drug overdoses over the past few years. Far more powerful than heroin, fentanyl is often mixed with methamphetamine and other illegal drugs and can sometimes be consumed unknowingly in counterfeit pills.

Henning was arrested on Tuesday and booked into Yuba County Jail on charges that include murder and brining drugs into the jail.

Curry said on Thursday that Henning previously was booked into Yuba County Jail on Oct. 26 on charges of possessing fentanyl for sale. Henning pled no contest on Nov. 16 to those charges and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 4, 2023, Curry said.

"I cannot comment further at this time on the case against Henning, but I would urge the public to avoid street drugs such as fentanyl," Curry said in an email to the Appeal.

He also offered this warning that his office gives to every person who enters the criminal justice system for drug offenses in Yuba County.

"All drugs, even those sold over-the-counter, can be dangerous if they are not taken as prescribed and intended. Illegal and counterfeit drugs are extremely dangerous because there is no way for you to know what is actually in the drug or how 'hot' it might be. Illegal drugs seized from the streets of California, including from Yuba and Sutter counties, increasingly contain fentanyl, an opiate that can cause death to humans in minutes from very small doses," the warning states. "One pill can kill. Hundreds of Californians are dying every year from fentanyl poisoning. It is very dangerous to human life to ingest illegal drugs. Every time you take an illegal drug, you are risking your life. It is extremely reckless to provide, furnish, distribute, sell, or otherwise give another person illegal drugs. You do not know what is actually in that powder, rock, liquid, or pill you are giving away. It is almost certain to contain some amount of fentanyl. You are recklessly risking the lives of others when you give them illegal drugs. If you give another person an illegal drug and he or she dies from ingesting it, you may be charged with murder."

The Yuba County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office are continuing to investigate this case. Anyone with information related to the case should contact Detective Sergeant J.D. Parker at 530-749-7777.