Skip to main content

Defendant Sentenced for Supplying Deadly Fentanyl Dose Portrayed in HBO’s ‘The Crime of the Century’

A screengrab shows a police officer wearing a face mask and sunglasses.

A Homeland Security Investigations officer appears in a screen grab taken from HBO’s “The Crime of the Century.”

A defendant whose arrest was featured on the HBO series The Crime of the Century has been sentenced to prison.

Cole Thomas Salazar, 32, of San Diego will spend the next 10 years behind bars for what the U.S. Department of Justice described as “his role in supplying the fatal dose of powdered fentanyl that resulted in the death of 24-year-old Sarah Elizabeth Fuzzell on November 3, 2020.”

Co-defendant Valerie Lynn Addison, 40, of San Diego was also charged in connection with the death; she is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 16.

Both Salazar and Addison pleaded guilty to possessing drugs with the intent to distribute — a crime which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California announced when the pleas were entered.  Salazar’s guilty plea related to fentanyl only; Addison’s related to both fentanyl and methamphetamine. The specific crimes alleged were violations of 18 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).

The DOJ said that Salazar admitted he “supplied a fatal dose of fentanyl that resulted in the death of a 24-year-old woman who was found inside her Vista apartment on November 3, 2020.”

According to court records, Salazar used online classified ads to sell drugs.  Fuzzell purchased fentanyl from Salazar on Nov. 2, 2020 and died after ingesting it.

Salazar was arrested on Jan. 10, 2021.  The drugs “heroin and fentanyl were both in his possession when he was taken into custody,” the DOJ said.  Additional drugs and drug paraphernalia were in his nearby hotel room.

Law&Crime detailed the specifics of the arrest in a previous report.

HBO described its two-part film as a “searing indictment of Big Pharma and the political operatives and government regulations that enable over-production, reckless distribution, and mass abuse of synthetic opiates.”

Federal authorities heralded the sentences in the usual fashion.

“Our community lost a vibrant, intelligent 24-year-old victim to powdered fentanyl,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “We can’t stress enough the danger of powdered fentanyl. If you are a drug dealer who chooses to sell powdered fentanyl – disregarding the extreme risk – our office will prosecute you for any death resulting from your sale.”

“Drug dealers like Mr. Salazar must be held accountable for the rising fentanyl deaths we have seen in San Diego communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly Howe. “Fake pills and powdered fentanyl have no place in San Diego, and we will continue to bring those who sell these drugs to justice.”

“The sentence imposed on the lethal dose of powered fentanyl that resulted in the tragic death of a young person sends a clear message to drug criminal drug dealers,” said Chad Plantz, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “There are serious consequences to peddling these dangerous substances. HSI along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to seek out and bring to justice those involved drug overdoses of any kind.”

The original original criminal complaint, an FBI affidavit, and an indictment are all available here.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.