5 charged with murder in drug death of teen

STILLWATER, Minn. - Prosecutors have filed murder charges against five people in connection with the drug-related death of a 17-year-old Woodbury girl in January.

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput announced Wednesday that his office issued third degree murder charges against two adults and three juveniles in connection with the death of the teen. The suspects are identified by Orput's office as Alexander Lee Clausen, 19; Cole Alexander Matenaer, 19; and three juveniles, who the county attorney is petitioning to charge as adults.

The victim, Tara Fitzgerald, was described by her family in an obituary as a talented musician and artist.

Woodbury Police officers were dispatched on reports of an unresponsive female inside a home on Commonwealth Avenue January 11, 2014. Initial reports indicated Fitzgerald and a friend had ingested a synthetic substance similar to acid or LSD. Fitzgerald was transported by ambulance to Regions Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Woodbury Police and the Washington County Sheriff's Department conducted an investigation which revealed the teen ingested a synthetic drug identified as 25i-NBOMe. The investigation also revealed the drug was distributed was passed between the five charged individuals and made its way to the deceased. Investigators say the drug was initially sold by Claussen to Matenaer in the fall of 2013, and subsequently Matenaer sold the drug to one of the juveniles. They say that 17-year-old passed it on to the two other teens, one of whom then sold the drug to Fitzgerald on or about January 4, 2014.

A criminal complaint issued Wednesday says investigators traced the drugs that killed Fitzgerald to Cole Matenaer. From his cell phone and the phone of his girlfriend they obtained text messages and a phone number that led them to a St. Cloud resident named Alex, later Identified as Alex Claussen. At that point an undercover officer set up a drug buy at a residence in St. Cloud, and purchased the synthetic acid from Claussen. Inside the home investigators found and confiscated more than 300 doses of 25i-NBOMe, which had been selling for approximately $10 apiece.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death as complications of 25i-NBOMe toxicity.

"When an illegal drug enters our community, all of those involved – those who create it, sell it or give it away – are responsible for what happens with that drug. We are especially concerned with those individuals who distribute illegal drugs to juveniles. We will prosecute those individuals to the full extent of what the law allows."


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