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Getting Answers: What Does It Take For Higher Charges In Fentanyl-Related Deaths?

EL DORADO HILLS (CBS13) — The heat is being turned up on dealers selling deadly drugs laced with fentanyl.

In just the last week, we've seen multiple dealers facing criminal charges — one even facing a murder charge.

The video will make you laugh — and cry — but Laura and Chris Didier share their son's story wherever people will listen, this time at Rolling Hills Middle School in El Dorado Hills.

Their son Zach, a once straight-A student who'd just applied to college, died from fentanyl poisoning when he bought what he thought was the pain killer percocet.

"It's eviscerating. It just shatters your heart," Laura Didier said. "He was on this amazing path in life."

Virgil Bordner is accused of selling Zach the fake drug and is now charged with involuntary manslaughter.  But that was just the beginning of dealers facing such consequences. A year later, another seller is charged with murder. Carson Schewe, 20, is accused of selling fentanyl-laced drugs and the victim died.

Days after that bombshell charge, the San Joaquin County District Attorney announced voluntary manslaughter and child abuse charges for 18-year-old Cecilia Silva after a 14-year-old died of fentanyl poisoning.

But are these consequences too little too late?

"Well, we have to start at some point. Most of the time, these deaths came in as coroner cases," Gire said. "People were dying in their bedrooms or dying in places that didn't give the appearance of criminal conduct."

So what does it take for these higher charges? Leading the charge on these stiffer penalties, Placer County District Attorney Morgan Gire said it takes evidence of malice and knowingly selling a deadly drug for a murder charge.

"We are on a mission to save lives. We're on a mission to prevent deaths," Gire said. "We're not on a mission to prosecute more murderers. I hope for a day I have no murders to prosecute, but we have to do something."

"It's incredibly important because they are taking advantage of our kids being young, being inexperienced, thinking that pills are a safer alternative," Laura Didier said.

Bottom line is while some of the recent deadly fentanyl cases haven't led to murder charges, prosecutors tell us they are still under review, which means evidence of malice could bump a manslaughter charge up to murder.

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