A Miramar man has been charged with murder after investigators say a 31-year-old Miami woman died from an overdose of fentanyl he sold her.
Bernard Gonzalez, 58, who was already in jail on charges including armed trafficking of oxycodone and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, could face life in prison if convicted.
This marks the first time in Broward County that a person has been charged with a fentanyl-related death, according to the State Attorney’s Office.
Fentanyl and its synthetic variants — which can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin — have decimated communities across Florida and the nation, where a crackdown on prescription painkillers such as oxycodone is believed to have led to the spike in opioid abuse.
Florida law has long allowed state prosecutors to charge someone with murder if they provide a fatal dose of heroin or cocaine. In Miami-Dade, a handful of people have been charged with murder over the past 15 years in connection with deaths associated with those drugs.
But the law did not specify fentanyl overdoses. In 2017, Florida lawmakers passed a law allowing prosecutors to charge dealers with murder if they provide a fatal dose of fentanyl or drugs mixed with fentanyl — a key change for prosecutors,
In Miami-Dade, there have been several cases involving fentanyl.
Two Miami-Dade jail inmates, Nathaniel Vargas and Carlos Martinez, were indicted on first-degree murder charges in November 2018.
Prosecutors allege they were responsible for smuggled-in fentanyl that led to the overdose death of at least one inmate at the Miami-Dade County Jail. They are still awaiting trial.
Earlier this year, a grand jury also indicted two men, Karl Schmidt and David Cash, for allegedly giving a friend a fatal hit of fentanyl at a house in the Country Club neighborhood of Northwest Miami-Dade. They, too, are awaiting trial.
In the Broward case, prosecutors say Gonzalez sold fentanyl and derivatives of fentanyl to Kelly Fitzgerald while she was at his Miramar apartment. On March 21, 2019, Fitzgerald died after ingesting the drugs, according to the Broward State Attorney’s Office.
“The law requires prosecutors to prove that the defendant supplied the drugs to the victim and that the drugs were the proximate cause of her death,” the office said in a news release.
After a joint investigation involving the Miramar Police Department, the Miami-Dade Police Department, the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Broward State Attorney’s Office, a grand jury handed down the indictment Thursday.
A hearing on the murder charge has not yet been scheduled.