1st fentanyl murder conviction in California following 15-year-old girl's death

Nathaniel Cabacungan appears in court in 2022 after being charged with murder. Photo: KCRA 

A young man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Friday following the death of a 15-year-old Northern California girl, which the Placer County District Attorney says is the first fentanyl murder conviction of its kind in the state.

DA Morgan Gire said Nathaniel Cabacungan, 21, is expected to be sentenced on Aug. 16. The murder charge carries a maximum of 15 years to life. 

"The murder conviction today demonstrates that our office remains committed to holding dealers of deadly fentanyl accountable for the lives they take," Gire said in a statement.  "This case was the result of an outstanding collaborative effort by our Placer Special Investigations Unit, our dedicated Placer County Sheriff’s detective, and prosecutors from the Placer County District Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit." 

"Our community, like so many others, has been tragically affected by this fentanyl crisis.  We are committed to combating this crisis on all fronts- continued education and outreach efforts, extensive prevention campaigns, and in those deserving cases, aggressive prosecution of dealers who knowingly sell deadly fentanyl with no regard for the lives of others."

He had been represented by the public defender's office. 

The teenage Roseville girl died on June 21, 2022. 

The two had been dating. 

Fentanyl is a powerful and addictive synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin. The state Department of Justice said two milligrams of fentanyl can result in overdose and potentially death.

According to 1pillcankill.placer.com, fentanyl is now the #1 cause of death among 18- to 45- year olds in the United States. In 2020, 24 Placer County residents died from fentanyl poisoning and nearly half of them were under 25 years of age. That’s a 700% increase from 2019.

While Cabacungan's murder conviction is the first one related to fentanyl in California, several others have been charged throughout the state including at least four cases in Santa Clara County.