5 charged in Woodbury, Minn. girl's sleepover drug overdose - KMSP-TV

5 teens charged in Woodbury, Minn. girl's sleepover drug overdose

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WOODBURY, Minn. (KMSP) - Charges have been filed against five teens in connection with the death of a 17-year-old Woodbury, Minn. girl who died of a drug overdose at a sleepover in early January.

Washington County attorney Pete Orput confirmed third-degree murder charges have been filed against two adults and three juveniles as a result of Tara Fitzgerald's death: Alexander Lee Claussen, 19, Cole Alexander Matenaer, 19, Sydney Claire Johnson, 17, Alistair Curtis Berg, 17, and Brian Phillip Norlander, 17. Prosecutors are petitioning to have the three 17-year-olds certified as adults in court.

Murder charges relate to the sale and distribution of controlled substances. Johnson, Berg and Norlander also face a second felony charge for selling dangerous drugs to a person under age 17.

While they're all charged with murder, Orput said their punishments will vary.

Woodbury Police Department responded to a report of an unresponsive female on Commonwealth Avenue on January 11 at 9:10 a.m. Initial reports indicated she had taken a substance similar to acid or LSD and was brought to Regions Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

According to charges, drug was initially sold by Claussen, who thought the drug to be LSD, to Matenaer in the fall of 2013. Then, Matenaer sold the drug to Johnson. Johnson sold the drug to Berg who later sold it to Norlander in late December of 2013. Norlander then sold the drug to his friend, Fitzgerald, around January 4.

It's unusual to file third-degree murder charges so far up the drug supply chain, but it fits the state's third-degree murder statute.

"If it leads to the arrest, the incapacitation of that person who has the ability to make something like this, then it could be the difference," University of St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler said.

Osler said the charges make sense if they don't end with the teen at the far end of the drug chain, Claussen. Attorneys don't believe Claussen actually manufactured the drug himself, however.

"We don't think he himself is a laboratory analyst who can put this stuff together, but it's about as far as we've taken it," Orput said.

The Woodbury Police Department and Washington County Sheriff’s Department's investigation revealed the drug to be 25i-NBOMe, a Schedule I Controlled Substance and psychoactive drug. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death as complications of 25i-NBOMe toxicity.

Friends and family said Fitzgerald was a talented artist and musician who loved to skateboard and make funny faces. In this case, Orput says the arrests send a message to the community about the severity of drug sales.

"These are synthetic drugs. We don't even know what they are," Orput said.

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