Courtroom gavel
A courtroom gavel. File photo

A 36-year-old man from San Diego accused of supplying two drug users with lethal doses of fentanyl pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts of second-degree murder.

Christopher Michael Koppa was arrested in August following a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation into the deaths of Devahn Reed, 30, of Canyon Lake and Patrick Schwab, 34, of Lake Elsinore.

Koppa appeared before Superior Court Judge Elaine Kiefer for an arraignment Thursday. Kiefer scheduled a felony settlement conference for Nov. 17 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta and ordered that the defendant remain held on $2 million bail at the nearby Byrd Detention Center.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Ben Ramirez, Reed died on the night of Aug. 25, 2018. Deputies discovered the deceased victim, though it required further investigation to identify the cause of death.

“Koppa … was identified as the suspect responsible for selling the fentanyl that killed Reed,” the sergeant said.

Detectives also linked Koppa directly to the death of Schwab, who ingested a fatal amount of fentanyl about two weeks later, on Sept. 11, 2018.

Investigators did not disclose the specific circumstances behind each fatality, or how the men acquired the fentanyl, allegedly from the defendant. Authorities also didn’t specify why the investigations required four years to complete.

Koppa has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County, but he does have two unresolved drug-related misdemeanor cases pending.

Authorities have increasingly been filing criminal cases against dealers in overdose cases involving fentanyl. Since February 2021, Riverside County’s District Attorney’s Office has filed murder charges against nearly 20 people in such cases.

The synthetic opioid is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and is a popular additive, mixed into any number of narcotics and pharmaceuticals. The ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.

According to Riverside County public safety officials, in 2021, there were nearly 400 fentanyl-induced deaths countywide, representing a 200-fold increase from 2016.

Statistics published in May by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed there were roughly 108,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, with fentanyl poisoning accounting for over 80,000 of them.

City News Service


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Ellen Bullock