Heroin laced with elephant tranquilizer found on scene of Blue Lake deaths

CBI lab report states pills had carfentanil, which is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl

Police discovered pills containing heroin laced with an extremely powerful elephant tranquilizer at or near the El Jebel-area home where two men were found dead last month, according to a lab test from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation obtained by The Aspen Times.

Law enforcement officials seized nine clear capsules from the scene in the Blue Lake subdivision that each contained an off-white powder, according to an email from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office distributed to other area law enforcement agencies.

The CBI lab report dated April 13 analyzed the pills and found they contained a mixture of heroin and carfentanil, the email states. The report also warns law enforcement officers to be careful when responding to overdose calls “because a small amount of this drug can be deadly.”

Officers should always wear gloves when dealing with unknown powders because carfentanil can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled, and the best practice is not to field test any powders, the email states.

Carfentanil is “used as a tranquilizing agent for elephants and other large mammals,” according to a Drug Enforcement Administration warning about the drug issued in September. Carfentanil is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, another tranquilizer that can be lethal to humans in as little as 2 milligrams, according to the warning.

Michael Martinez, 26, and Camillo Sanchez, 30, were found dead March 24 by a roommate in the Blue Lake home. Another man in the home was taken to an area hospital after suffering possible respiratory arrest, a Basalt fire official said at the time.

The third man recovered, but only after paramedics hit him with repeated doses of Narcan, a medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose, according to a law enforcement source who requested anonymity.

The man who survived said he couldn’t party with his friends that night because he was on probation and that he was dosed unknowingly, according to another source who requested anonymity. That man, who was interviewed by a DEA agent, is in Florida recovering, the source said.

Dan Loya, head of investigations at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, declined Thursday to comment on the email. Further, Loya repeatedly threatened a reporter with criminal charges for interfering with an ongoing investigation if the email was publicly disseminated.

A message left Thursday for a DEA agent in Grand Junction was not returned. A message sent to Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis on Thursday seeking information about toxicology tests related to the autopsies of the two dead men also was not returned.

Because Loya refused to comment, it was unclear Thursday whether law enforcement officials were concerned about the laced heroin affecting others in the Roaring Fork Valley.

However, the law enforcement source who requested anonymity said the laced heroin may have come from Florida. The two dead men were from Florida, and officers discovered an open package in the Blue Lake home from Florida that may have contained the pills, the source said.

The Aspen Police Department and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office have not run into any fentanyl-laced drugs, said Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn and Pitkin County Undersheriff Ron Ryan.

However, it is likely only a matter of time before that occurs, the law enforcement source said.

“Keep in mind that throughout the U.S., carfentanil is being found in cocaine, counterfeit pills, meth, heroin and other drugs,” according to the Eagle County email. “It can also be found in liquid form.”

Internet searches turn up numerous recent articles warning of the presence of fentanyl and carfentail in heroin and other drugs in the United States. The pop star Prince died of an accident overdose of fentanyl exactly a year ago, according to media reports.

In 2002, Russian security police used an aerosol version of fentanyl to try and subdue Chechen terrorists who were holding civilians hostage in a Moscow theater, according to media reports. The gas, however, killed 117 hostages.