Aurora man indicted for first-degree murder in 16-year-old’s overdose death

A 25-year-old man gave fentanyl to a 16-year-old girl during a party at his Aurora apartment, then failed to get help for the girl when she overdosed and died, according to a grand jury indictment that charges the man with first-degree murder.

Jorge Alexander Che-Quiab was charged in the death of Alexis Krzystek, and also with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl during the same party. That girl told authorities she woke up after blacking out drunk to find her underwear removed and her pants on backwards.

Che-Quiab later admitted to sexually assaulting the 14-year-old, according to the indictment.

He faces a total of 13 felony charges in connection with the party, which took place on Aug. 6 and 7, and his being held on a $2 million bond in the Arapahoe County Jail.

On the night of the party, Che-Quiab brought at least three girls and an 18-year-old woman to his apartment, then gave his guests pills that he said were oxycodone but were in fact fentanyl, according to the grand jury indictment. He crushed the pills and his guests snorted the powder, according to the indictment.

He and two other men at the party sexually assaulted some of the guests after they were too high or drunk to resist, according to the indictment.

Che-Quiab told investigators that he noticed Krzystek was slipping in and out of consciousness after snorting the fentanyl, and that he saw her lips were turning blue, but he did not seek medical help for her. Instead, he went to sleep and in the morning woke up to find the 16-year-old girl was not breathing.

He told detectives he performed CPR and called 911, then flushed some cocaine down the toilet while waiting for the paramedics to arrive. Police who searched the apartment nevertheless found a bag of blue fentanyl pills and three other bags of what appeared to be heroin.

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Colorado, fentanyl-related deaths more than quadrupled between 2016 and 2019, with 220 deaths recorded in 2019 alone, according to Colorado Health Institute.

A girl who survived the party told investigators that Che-Quiab described the pills as “blue oxy” when he offered them to the teenagers.

“In this case, we have a juvenile victim who was given what she thought was ‘oxy’ and she is dead from a fentanyl overdose,” 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said in a statement. “This is a warning to illegal drug users: the risk cannot be overstated, and it is death.”

Che-Quiab, who entered the U.S. illegally, expressed regret for not helping Krzystek in multiple interviews with police, according to the indictment.

It is uncommon but not unheard of for drug dealers or providers in Colorado to be charged with first-degree murder if their users fatally overdose. In 2014, a Centennial woman linked to four fatal overdoses was charged with first-degree murder in the 2011 overdose death of 21-year-old Carter Higdon. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Che-Quiab is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, under two provisions in state law that apply to a person who commits first-degree murder if he attempts to commit a sexual assault and causes someone’s death during the attempt, or if he acts with “extreme indifference to the value of human life” and knowingly puts another person’s life at risk, causing that person’s death.

A handful of criminal prosecutions with a variety of charges are brought against drug dealers or providers each year in the state, said Fifth District Attorney Bruce Brown, and what charges are brought depends entirely on the specifics of each case.

The parents of a Lakewood toddler who overdosed on fentanyl earlier this year were each charged with child abuse resulting in death after they admitted to selling drugs from the hotel room where the family was living.

Brown has never brought first-degree murder charges in a fatal overdose, but has pursued homicide and manslaughter charges. In 2018, a drug dealer in Summit County pleaded guilty to negligent homicide after he sold heroin laced with fentanyl to a 32-year-old man who fatally overdosed.

Overdose cases are complex, Brown said, and require law enforcement officers to conduct a thorough homicide investigation to tie the drug provider to the victim. But he said such prosecutions and convictions can act as a deterrent for dealers.

“First and foremost is deterrence,” he said. “And the grieving families, those are the victims that are left behind. So to give them a sense of, there is accountability for the loss of their loved one… that is an important consideration in these cases.”