Three charged in fentanyl overdose deaths of Santa Rosa father, 13-month-old son
SAN FRANCISCO - Federal prosecutors filed charges Wednesday against three Santa Rosa residents suspected of supplying the lethal dose of fentanyl blamed for the deaths of a Santa Rosa father and his 13-month old son in September.
The three defendants - Shane Cratty, 26, Lindsay Williams, 32, and Leanna Zamora, 29 - were charged Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Prosecutors allege the drugs, purchased by Zamora in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, were sold to Williams on Sept. 13 and delivered to the father by Cratty.
The father, Patrick O’Neill, 29, and his son, Liam, were found lying on his bedroom floor early the next morning after the baby’s mother discovered them. The baby was declared dead after paramedics were unable to revive him. O’Neill, who went into cardiac arrest soon after arriving at a hospital, died two days later.
An autopsy of the 13-month-old boy determined he died from acute fentanyl intoxication, while O’Neill died from complications related to fentanyl intoxication, the charging document shows.
Investigators found about a fifth of a gram of fentanyl on the floor several feet away from O’Neill and his son. A scrap of aluminum foil also found nearby tested positive for methamphetamine and fentanyl residue, while a second scrap tested positive for meth only.
Zamora, who was arrested after the deaths, told Santa Rosa police officers that she got the fentanyl from a dealer in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco, the criminal complaint shows.
“The drugs in this case originated here in the Tenderloin and I have grave concern about the existence of an open-air drug market in a wonderful city like San Francisco,” U.S. Attorney David Anderson said Wednesday at a news conference in San Francisco. “When we tolerate this open-air drug market in the heart of our city, the harms that it creates are not contained to the neighborhood where this drug market exists.
Cratty was arrested in Texas on Tuesday night, Anderson said, and inmate logs showed Williams and Zamora were in custody at the Sonoma County Jail for local cases. All three were charged with distribution of controlled substances. If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of 20 ?years in prison.
After Liam’s death and while O’Neill lay dying in a hospital, Cratty gave an on-camera interview with KRON 4 TV in San Francisco in which he lamented the fact that his friend had started using drugs again.
“I’m almost positive Pat had been clean for a number of months at this point and I think it was probably the first time he had used the drug,” he said.
“And you know it could’ve fallen out of his pocket or like I really don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure it out for the last? two days.”
In the Sept. 16 interview, Cratty, who is suspected of giving O’Neill the drug, warned of its dangers and said he personally had saved dozens of people from overdosing.
“People should really not use fentanyl at all. It’s very dangerous depending on how potent, how pure it is. One little speck like a grain of sand can kill you,” Cratty said. “It should somehow just be taken off the streets completely.”
The arrests come a four months after Anderson’s office announced a new federal, multiagency initiative to combat drug trafficking, robberies and other crimes in the central San Francisco neighborhood.
“This case involves fentanyl and a $125 drug transaction that led to the untimely deaths of a father and his 13-month old son,” William Fallin, Drug Enforcement Administration acting special agent in charge, said in a statement. “The circumstances surrounding this investigation are arguably the most tragic we have seen.”
The federal case stemmed from work done by Santa Rosa officers, who responded to a 911 call from a house Sept. 14 on Darek Drive, where O’Neill and his son were discovered by Liam’s mother.
She became worried earlier that day when she learned O’Neill had not dropped off the boy with her sister that morning as planned, and went to the home after receiving no reply from O’Neill, the charging documents said.
While she noticed O’Neill’s speech was slow in a video call the night before about 11 p.m., the mother told officers that she thought it could have been caused by sleep medication O’Neil sometimes took. She said she saw her son sleeping on O’Neill’s bed in the background during the call.
After searching O’Neill’s phone and through subsequent interviews following his death, Santa Rosa investigators learned O’Neill began searching for fentanyl the afternoon of ?Sept. 13 when he reached out to a person, asking for a gram of the drug, the court records show.
The request eventually made its way to Williams, who said she could get the fentanyl for $125 after work.
Followed by O’Neill in a separate car, Cratty drove Williams so she could pick up the fentanyl from Zamora at a Target parking lot where Zamora worked. She returned to Cratty’s car and Cratty then handed the substance to O’Neill, the court documents said.
Zamora was arrested Sept. 18 after a probation search at her job turned up what police suspected was fentanyl and drug paraphernalia in her car, said Santa Rosa Lt. Dan Marincik, who oversees the department’s investigative units.
Williams was also arrested Sept. 18 for a violation of her probation, though Marincik did not know the details of the violation. Both she and Zamora remained at the Sonoma County Jail Wednesday.
Anderson did not elaborate on the nature of Cratty’s arrest Tuesday night during the news conference and a call to his office for more information about the case was not returned Wednesday evening.
Anderson commended the work of local and federal officers, noting that the charges filed against Zamora, Williams and Cratty were rare.
“The challenge of bringing one of those cases are not on my side; the challenges are on the law enforcement side,” Anderson said during the news conference.
Marincik said the case came together thanks to the work of detectives, who quickly identified the supplier of the fentanyl involved in both deaths.
“You have a young, vulnerable child who can’t defend himself from this,” Marincik said, referring to the 13-month-old boy. “It makes us look at this and realize the magnitude and significance (of this case).”
Santa Rosa Police Detective James Vickers, the lead investigator in the case, also attended Wednesday’s press conference. Efforts to reach O’Neill’s family were not successful Wednesday.
You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter ?@nashellytweets.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat
Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.