Death of man found buried in backyard ruled an overdose, fentanyl found in system

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His body was found buried in a backyard, now his death is being ruled an overdose, but a man is still in custody tonight, considered liable for his death. 

The coroner’s office says in addition to meth and cocaine, fentanyl was in 21-year-old Joseph Lara’s system when he died. The charges one of the defendants is facing makes this case unique.

What makes the case tragic is the fact that had any of the three defendants called 911, they may not be facing any charges at all, and most significantly, investigators believe Lara would still be alive. 

Three defendants are facing multiple felony charges for their alleged involvement in the burning and burying of Lara’s body. 

But one defendant, David Williams, is actually charged in connection to Lara’s fatal overdose. This is a scenario we haven’t seen before in Kern County. 

According to court documents, investigators say Williams sold Lara the drugs that led to his death. Documents also note that had any of the defendants called for help while Lara was overdosing, he likely could’ve been saved. 

We continue to hear more about accidental overdoses involving drugs that are cut with incredibly potent pain killer, often with the belief that the decedent wasn’t aware they were ingesting it. Officials tell us some dealers cut drugs like cocaine with fentanyl because it cuts costs and increases profits. 

Not only is fentanyl dangerous in itself, experts say the real danger stems from drug users not knowing it’s in whatever they’re taking. In an effort to combat increasing opiate overdoses, California law now allows the purchase of Narcan at pharmacies without a prescription.

Just last month, a Bakersfield high school student’s body was found in Northwest park. Family says Anthony Spence was left alone to die, his friends abandoning him in the park when he overdosed.

The coroner’s office hasn’t released his cause of death, but Spence’s girlfriend told 17 News that earlier that night, he took Xanax laced with fentanyl. 

While prosecutors say an involuntary manslaughter charge in this situation isn’t unheard of, they couldn’t find another Kern County case as an example. Representatives say when Cynthia Zimmer took over as District Attorney this year, she doubled the amount of attorneys in the homicide unit.

They say having these additional resources and personnel is allowing them investigate and prosecute all kinds of homicides more efficiently, including this case, which is assigned to the homicide unit. The defendants charged in connection with Lara’s death have all pleaded not guilty. 
   

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