A Canyon Country man asked his girlfriend to purchase a pair of “Percocet” pills and a Xanax for $55 outside a nearby 7-Eleven, according to court records.
After she brought the narcotics back to their apartment in the 27300 block of Evi Lane, he crushed one of the pills, snorted it through a red straw and went back to playing video games around 10 p.m. May 15.
Richard Horton Jr., 20, woke up around 2 a.m., and asked his girlfriend for her help to find a second “perc,” which detectives suspected was a nickname for the small blue pills that are often a dangerous drug cocktail of hydrocodone laced with fentanyl, according to sworn statements in court records obtained by The Signal.
She complied, helped him find the pill and then went back to sleep. Horton went back to playing video games.
Less than eight hours later, his live-in girlfriend found her boyfriend lying face down in their apartment.
Horton, whose girlfriend told sheriff’s deputies that he previously had no other known medical conditions, was pronounced dead by paramedics at 6:14 a.m. May 16. He was not a daily user, but records indicated he had a history of similar drug purchases, according to court records.
Detectives’ suspicions about the illicit pills purchased outside the convenience store in the 27200 block of Whites Canyon Road — that they were actually hydrocodone laced with the high-potency opioid, which is roughly 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine — were later confirmed.
The coroner closed Horton’s case on Oct. 20, after attributing his cause of death to the “effects of fentanyl and methamphetamine.”
The incident is part of a growing local problem, as detectives reported in court filings that they suspect the pills were sold by a source who lived less than a mile away from their point of purchase.
The city of Santa Clarita has seen the number of overdoses rise rapidly in the past two years, with officials reporting that there were 13 overdose deaths in 2021 between March and December, and 30 fatal overdoses so far this year.
Since September, the countywide data indicates that eight fatal overdoses have been reported among users under the age of 18.
A local addiction-treatment expert noted the growing fentanyl problem requires a change of the messaging that’s being given to young adults, and even children, with respect to drug use.
“The message that we’re giving out to young people is bad because it’s, ‘Fentanyl kills,’” said Cary Quashen, founder and president of Action Drug Rehab. “Well, everyone knows that fentanyl kills. … But it’s the Percocet that they’re buying that’s not Percocet. It’s the oxy(codone) that’s not oxy.”
Fentanyl is often manufactured in China, and comes across the southern U.S. border where it’s sold very inexpensively, he added. The combination of the price and its highly addictive quality makes it very attractive for dealers, and anyone with a pill press can put it into narcotics that are being sold locally, he added.
In Horton’s case, detectives located a suspect, who is not being identified by The Signal because he has not been charged in connection with the sale or the death as of the publication of this story.
A search of the suspect’s Canyon Country home through a warrant obtained by local detectives in connection with their investigation into the death yielded several thousand Xanax pills, a firearm and an arrest. The suspect, who was not legally allowed to possess a gun due to a criminal record, was “bonded out” in lieu of $35,000 bail on a weapon charge a day after being arrested, according to Sheriff’s Department records.
A Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station official noted the investigation would likely be handled by the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau. The SCV Sheriff’s Station detective who initiated the investigation was not immediately available to respond to its status.
A homicide detective has not yet been assigned to the investigation, according to officials with the department’s Homicide Bureau.