Murder charges in Washington Co. serve as wake up call

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Minn. – One teenager girl is dead and now five teens are charged in connection with her murder.

Investigators alleged it happened back in January when 17-year old Tara Fitzgerald, a Woodbury High School student, overdosed on synthetic LSD. Prosecutors believe the drug that killed Fitzgerald passed through the hands of five other teens: Alexander Clausen, 19; Cole Alexander Matenaer, 19; and three juveniles who may be charged as adults.

"It's something I wish I didn't have to do but I'm going to do it," said Washington County Attorney Pete Orput.

Orput and his investigators believe it started with Clausen who lives in St. Cloud.

"We believe he's alleged to be the one that is making it, putting the LSD on paper and then distributing down here," he said.

"These synthetic drugs are as dangerous as drugs get," added Carol Falkowski, a drug abuse expert.

Falkowski believes the charges announced Wednesday in Washington County should be a wake up call about synthetic drugs for all teens and their parents.

"These are so strong that just a little bit will kill you. And most people don't think taking just a little bit of anything could kill you," she said. "We're talking about an amount that is so small it could fit on the head of a pin."

She described synthetic drugs as chemicals made in a laboratory, not extracted from plants.

"There are about two new chemical combinations a month that are coming up. So people whether it's here or other countries are coming up with new chemicals to package and market," she said.

She added most of the synthetic drugs are made in bulk in China. Falkowski referenced a map she used in a recent forum where she spoke about synthetic drugs. It shows practically no reports of synthetic drugs in 2006 in Minnesota, but by 2010 there were up to two dozen.

Despite laws against it, she blamed the internet for the easy access of the drugs.

"The internet is the wild card," she said.

So what can parents do? She said two things.

Learn about the drugs teenagers have access to these days, not just the ones you saw when you were in high school. And talk to your kids early and often about the dangers of drug abuse, she said.

"Almost half of the kids smoke marijuana before they get out of high school; 8 out of 10 kids use alcohol," she said. "So it's not someone else's kid, chances are it could be your little angel."


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