Editor’s Note: The video above first aired in September, 2023.
ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- An Odessa man was arrested Friday after investigators said he admitted to selling fentanyl laced pills to a teen who later overdosed and died. Nathaniel Martinez, 18, has been charged with Murder Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance Causing Death.
According to an Odessa Police Department report, on October 2, officers and paramedics responded to a home on Lindberg after someone called 911 and asked for help. At the scene, officers found an unresponsive 16-year-old boy.
Witnesses said the teen had overdosed on fentanyl in the past and when they tried to wake him up for school that day, they found him sitting on the floor. They said they asked the boy if he was “okay”, to which he replied, “no”. They said they then tried to help the teen up from the floor, but he lost consciousness. That’s when witnesses said they administered Narcan and began performing CPR.
The witnesses said they believed the teen had overdosed on counterfeit M30 pills, which are known to contain fentanyl, and gave investigators consent to search the teen’s room. During that search, investigators reportedly found eight of the blue pills known as M30s.
The teen was taken to Medical Center Hospital for treatment and was then flown to a Lubbock hospital where he was declared brain dead later that same day; he died on October 3. An affidavit states that the preliminary autopsy results listed the teen’s cause of death as fentanyl overdose.
Investigators then followed a digital trail and learned that the teen had purchased fentanyl laced pills from an Instagram user just hours before he overdosed. That digital data, which included geolocation tracking, led officers to a home on Amistad, where the teen had last purchased narcotics.
On October 27, investigators spoke with Martinez after he was allegedly caught with 21.2 grams of M30 pills. In a conversation with investigators, Martinez allegedly admitted to selling between 200 and 300 M30 pills a day and said he was the person who sold to the teen just before he overdosed.
Martinez also “admitted to knowing that people frequently overdose and can die from using counterfeit M30 pills.” Investigators said Martinez also admitted that he had “personally witnessed” five or six separate non-fatal overdoses as a result of people taking M30 pills.
Martinez was arrested and booked into the Ector County Law Enforcement Center where he remained as of Monday afternoon. In addition to the murder charge, he’s also facing one charge of Manufacture and Delivery of a Controlled Substance; his bond has been set at a combined $100,000.
On September 1, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 6 into law to increase criminal penalties for selling and distributing fentanyl. The bill also allows prosecutors to seek a murder charge for any person who manufactures or delivers fentanyl when someone dies as a result.
“Fentanyl is an epidemic that very simply, is taking too many lives,” Abbott said during the bill signing ceremony. “Because of the courageous partnership of grieving family members Texas legislators and our office, we are enshrining into law today new protections that will save lives in Texas.”
In September, 1:11 Project founder, Michelle Watson, and other organizers, set up a moving display outside the Ector County Courthouse highlighting photos of teens and young people from the Basin who have died of a fentanyl overdose in recent years. At that time, Watson said she hoped that the newly enacted law would help slow the spread of fentanyl in the community.
“Our loved ones are gone; they’re not coming back, and someone gave them whatever they took and so now having harsher laws…making it (stricter) I think will start to make a difference,” she said.
The work Watson and the 1:11 Project is doing is critical amid rising rates of fentanyl deaths locally and across the state. While many health experts predicted that drug “overdose” and fentanyl fatalities would decrease after the pandemic, new data released this month from the CDC revealed that U.S. drug “overdose” deaths reached a new high in 2023.
The CDC estimates that more than 111,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending in April – and more than 77,000 of those deaths involved fentanyl and other synthetic opioids other than methadone. Both are record highs and increases over the prior year. In Texas, fentanyl related deaths rose by 28% during that same time period.