Updated September 16, 2021 - 3:39 pm
A Las Vegas family shed tears Thursday at a police news conference as they remembered a 17-year-old girl who died of a fentanyl overdose in February.
The father and grandparents of Mia Gugino, 17, attended the briefing at which police announced the arrest of Joshua Roberts, a suspected dealer accused of providing fentanyl to the teen.
Roberts, 22, was arrested Friday and charged with first- and second-degree murder and selling or transferring drugs, according to Clark County Detention Center records.
Police said Roberts was arrested in Utah and extradited to Las Vegas. The investigation did not indicate Roberts was suspected of other fatal overdoses this year.
Dispatch logs show officers were called at 11:53 a.m. Feb. 18 to a home on the 3900 block of North Empress Charm Court, near West Alexander Road and North El Capitan Way, after receiving a report of body.
The Clark County coroner’s office said Gugino died three hours later from fentanyl, MDMA and ethanol toxicity. Her death was ruled an accident by the coroner’s office.
But police say it also was a crime.
“If you sell a drug and it kills someone we will be relentless,” Metropolitan Police Department Capt. John Pelletier said. “If that means charge you for murder, so be it.”
Gugino’s father, Lee, said Thursday that his daughter made him grow up into a mature adult. His parents, Gary and Judith Gugino, stood to his right silently holding back tears during the conference.
“She was fearless and she made me so much better than I actually am,” Gugino said, explaining that he became a teacher to better support his daughter.
The father-daughter duo started a soccer team called the Vegas All Stars, where they devoted their nights and weekends to coaching local children.
Mia Gugino graduated Centennial High School early and was a freshman at College of Southern Nevada. Her father said she aspired to be a physical therapist after recovering from a knee injury.
Fentanyl deaths rising
Pelletier said the department has arrested seven people suspected of dealing fentanyl so far this year.
Gugino’s death is the second overdose being considered a homicide, according to department data for 2021. Police said Orianna Cervantes, 19, is considered a suspect in the fatal overdose of Joshua Gallegos on Feb. 14.
In August, the Southern Nevada Health District said fentanyl overdose deaths have continued to rise in Southern Nevada with five fatalities reported in Clark County on a single day that month.
“Between January and May there were 92 deaths among Clark County residents, a 39 percent percent increase over the same period in 2020 with 66 deaths,” the health district said in a news release. “In 2020 there were a total of 193 fentanyl deaths; 72 were reported in 2019.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl can be mixed with other drugs to look like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine.
“More commonly, fentanyl is being pressed into counterfeit pills and sold on the street as Percocet, Xanax or Oxycodone, which is contributing factor in the increase of fatal overdoses,” the health district said.
Last year, 13 children died from drug overdoses, including nine teenagers who died of a fentanyl overdose, according to the Clark County coroner’s office.