Five teenagers are charged with murder in the overdose death of 17-year-old Tara Fitzgerald, who was found unresponsive at her parents' Woodbury home in January.
Alexander Lee Claussen, 19, and Cole Alexander Matenaer, 19, are charged with felony third-degree murder, the Washington County Attorney's Office announced Wednesday. Three 17-year-olds – one male and one female – are charged with the same, plus one count each of selling drugs to a person under the age of 18, also a felony. (Note: BringMeTheNews generally does not name minors charged with crimes, unless certified as an adult in court.)
According to the criminal complaint filed against Claussen:
Fitzgerald died as a result of ingesting a synthetic drug identified as 25i-NBOMe, a Schedule I controlled substance similar to acid or LSD. The ensuing investigation found the drug she took passed through the hands of all five suspects; it was initially sold from Claussen to Matenaer in the fall of 2013, then purchased consecutively by each of the 17-year-old suspects until its final sale to Fitzgerald on or about Jan. 4, 2014.
Fitzgerald died one week later.
“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," Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said in a statement. "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.”
Orput told the Star Tribune the three juveniles will be certified as adults in court.
"I Want to Go All the Way Up the Tree"
According to the criminal complaint, Woodbury Police responded to a report of an unresponsive female on Commonwealth Avenue Jan. 11, shortly after 9 a.m. Fitzgerald was transported to Regions Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
A girl at the house told police she and Fitzgerald had taken a substance around midnight the night prior they thought was LSD, and had bought it from a classmate. Within hours, the complaint says, she began noticing Fitzgerald was moaning and experiencing muscle spasms or shaking, but was breathing. Concerned, she then texted a friend, who came over for about 90 minutes before leaving.
The girl told police she then tried to wake Fitzgerlad up shortly before 9 a.m., and when it proved unsuccessful, she called Fitzgerald's parents, who then contacted police.
Police then worked backwards from that information, going from seller to seller until landing on Claussen, the complaint says, who was arrested after a sting operation.
Shortly after Fitzgerald's death, Orput said he wanted to "stop this scourge in the county," saying they were going to track down where it came from and who distributed it.
"I want to go all the way up the tree to the top branch," he said.
An 18-year-old man and two 17-year-old boys, none of whom were identified, were arrested on probable cause third-degree murder and taken to the Washington County jail after the teen died, but were released pending charges.
On Wednesday, Orput said the five suspects were charged after an "intensive joint investigation" between the Woodbury Police Department and Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
In an obituary, Fitzgerald is remembered as a talented artist and musician, and an avid reader.