Teen pleads guilty in overdose death of high school student; 5 charged

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One of the five teenagers charged after a Woodbury high school student overdosed on a synthetic drug pleaded guilty Friday, the Woodbury Bulletin reports.

Cole Alexander Matenaer, 19, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder without any offer for a reduced sentence or lesser punishment, the paper reports, in connection with the Jan. 11 death of Tara Fitzgerald.

The 17-year-old died as a result of ingesting a synthetic drug identified as 25i-NBOMe – a Schedule I controlled substance similar to acid or LSD.

Authorities say Matenaer, of Woodbury, was one of the five people whose hands the drug passed through before ending up in Fitzgerald's possession.

According to a criminal complaint filed in May, the substance was initially sold from 19-year-old Alexander Lee Claussen to Matenaer in the fall of 2013. It was then purchased consecutively by three different 17-year-old suspects, until its final sale to Fitzgerald on or about Jan. 4, 2014.

Claussen, like Matenaer, is charged with felony third-degree murder. The three minors – two males and one female – were each charged with third-degree murder, as well as selling drugs to a person under the age of 18.

Shortly after Fitzgerald’s death, Washington County Attorney Pete 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.

At Friday's hearing, Matenaer said he wanted to take responsibility for what he did and make amends, the Jamestown Sun reports. He'll be sentenced Oct. 10. A third-degree murder conviction carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

In an obituary, Fitzgerald is remembered as a talented artist and musician, and an avid reader.

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