Samuel Brunelus, a 23-year-old from Florida, has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and more in relation to the deaths of two men to whom he allegedly provided heroin laced with carfentanil, an extremely powerful synthetic opioid best known as an elephant tranquilizer.
According to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Brunelus was taken into custody in the Florida community of Deerfield on July 11. It's a drill with which he should be familiar. He has a lengthy history of narcotics offenses, although previously, his favorite product appears to have been cocaine.
As we've reported, Michael Martinez, 26, and Camillo Sanchez, 30, were found dead at a home in the El Jebel area on March 24. (A third man with Martinez and Sanchez was revived thanks to multiple doses of the anti-overdose medication Narcan.) The following month, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation did tests on pills found at the scene. The main ingredient was heroin, but they were also cut with carfentanil, prompting the Eagle County Sheriff's Office to put out an alert about the opioid that quotes Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Carfentanil is surfacing in more and more communities," Rosenberg said. "We see it on the streets, often disguised as heroin. It is crazy dangerous. Synthetics such as fentanyl and carfentanil can kill you."
Carfentanil is one hundred times more potent than fentanyl, says an addiction expert.
For more information about carfentanil, we reached out to Amy Lowe, clinical director of outpatient services for Arapahoe House, Colorado's largest alcohol and drug rehab treatment center; Lowe previously spoke to us for a September 2016 post that looked at why Spice is popular in a state with legal marijuana. She told us that carfentanil may have played a role in even more fatal overdoses beyond Martinez and Sanchez in the state, thereby quietly contributing to the shocking rise of heroin deaths in Denver and Colorado as a whole.
"It's being cut into heroin to increase its potency," Lowe said of the substance. "A lot of people don't know what they're getting, and I would guess that our astounding overdose statistics would include drugs like this one," even if carfentanil isn't specifically cited in the autopsies. After all, carfentanil is relatively new to Colorado, and some coroners may not even be looking for it yet.
Far better known is fentanyl, another synthetic opiate with which carfentanil is frequently associated. Fentanyl has been the object of some notorious thefts by hospital personnel. The most recent case involved surgical tech Rocky Allen, whose needle-swapping led to approximately 3,000 patients at Swedish Medical Center being tested for hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV. Prior to the Allen incident, Rose Medical Center operating-room technician Kristen Parker was given a thirty-year prison sentence for infecting some hospital patients with hepatitis C over her own fenanyl-fueled needle-swapping — and last year, nurse Kim Burgans was arrested for allegedly stealing fentanyl at a hospital in Frisco.
But while fentanyl is a favorite of addicts, it's actually weak in comparison with carfentanil, which is "a hundred times more potent than fentanyl, and a thousand times more potent than morphine," Lowe pointed out. "Fentanyl is usually prescribed to people with chronic pain conditions, or people who are dying, to use as a dermal patch, while carfentanil actually comes in powder form. And one fragment of carfentanil does fifty times more than what a fentanyl patch would do."
Indeed, the Canadian Centre for Addiction reveals that a human being can be killed by an amount of carfentanil equivalent to a single grain of salt.
Enter Brunelus, who was linked to the pills that killed Martinez and Sanchez after a months-long investigation conducted by the Eagle County Sheriff's Office in conjunction with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department's special investigations unit and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
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He's endeavored to keep a low profile online, steering clear of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on — at least under his own name. But the Identity Pages, an online resource, identifies his community of residence as Pompano Beach, where he's said to own a home. His marital status is single, and he has two children, the site maintains.
Brunelus also posed for more than his share of mug shots between the years 2014 and 2017. He was busted on July 26, 2014, in Boca Raton for cocaine possession; May 25, 2015, in Coral Springs for the same charge, plus suspicion of trying to sell cocaine, reckless driving and a probation violation; and November 30, 2015, in Palm Beach for possessing and attempting to sell cocaine.
At this writing, Brunelus is being held at the Broward County Detention Facility on a $50,000 cash bond in regard to two counts of manslaughter and distribution of a Schedule II controlled substance. He's awaiting extradition to Colorado.