BRIGHTON, Colo. — The parents of a Brighton toddler who died from a fentanyl poisoning earlier this year face first-degree murder charges and are accused of participating in a drug-trafficking enterprise before, during and after their daughter's death.
“The real key issue here is the first-degree murder charge," said 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson. "That arises out of a statute that says if you knowingly cause the death of a child under 12, you’re guilty of first-degree murder if you are in a position of trust, which parents are.”
This month, a grand jury indicted Alonzo Montoya, 31, and Nicole Casias, 31, on new charges including first-degree murder, the 17th Judicial District Attorney's Office said. The charges stem from the Jan. 2 death of their nearly 2-year-old daughter, Aviyana Montoya.
Both were initially charged with child abuse resulting in death earlier this year.
"The investigation revealed that there were significantly larger crimes that needed to be investigated and that's why we utilized the grand jury," said 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian Mason.
The new charges include:
- First-degree murder - victim under 12 - position of trust (F1)
- COCCA-pattern of racketeering (F2)
- COCCA - conspiracy (F2)
- Child abuse resulting in death (F2)
- 2 counts of child abuse - manufacture controlled substance (F3)
- Child abuse - knowingly/recklessly - no injury (M2)
"I don't believe this is the first murder charge related to fentanyl in the state of Colorado," Mason said. "It is the first one that I am aware of involving a young child. And I believe it's the first that I am aware of of this nature anywhere in the country."
According to the indictment, Casias and Montoya violated the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA) with their conduct between Jan. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022.
"COCCA charges allow prosecutors and law enforcement to look at a criminal enterprise," Mason said. "So a traditional crime is one act that happens one day, perhaps by one person. The Colorado Organized Crime Control Act allows us to look at a range of dates and an operation of several acts, often by more than one person over that range of dates. That's what leads to charges of racketeering, conspiracy and other things."
The indictment alleges that Casias and Montoya's drug operation primarily focused on counterfeit pills, specifically fake Oxycodone pills.
Both of them stored maintained and prepared illegal substances within their residence, including in the master bedroom area, the indictment says.
They also, according to the indictment, "frequently" manufactured or distributed the drugs in the presence of their children, "often exposing the minor children to the controlled substances."
The indictment says they were engaging in the manufacturing of drugs on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2 of this year while two children were present.
Around that time, an arrest affidavit says both parents were smoking fentanyl in their bedroom with Aviyana in the room.
Casias told Aviyana "get out of that," though the affidavit does not specify what she was referring to. According to the affidavit, Casias picked up the toddler from the floor close to where they kept the narcotics safe under their bed, took her out of the bedroom and put her in her crib.
The affidavit says Aviyana was left unattended for nearly 14 hours and that surveillance video from inside the apartment records the young girl crying loudly and in pain multiple times throughout the night.
Officers were called to the family's home on South 7th Avenue in Brighton around 2 p.m. Jan. 2 after Aviyana was found unresponsive and not breathing. First responders provided lifesaving measures, but they were unsuccessful and Aviyana died.
An autopsy said both methamphetamine and fentanyl were found in Aviyana's blood. The amount of fentanyl was 10 times the amount of fentanyl necessary to kill an intolerant adult user, according to the coroner.
“What makes this unusual is that this alleges simply knowingly causing the death of a child under 12 from someone in a position of trust through permitting that individual, the toddler, Aviyana, to ingest or have contact with fentanyl," Robinson said.
Casias is also accused of selling her food stamps for cash, according to the indictment. Montoya "fraudulently" applied for a loan through the Payroll Protection Program for $15,625 which was to be used for "business or commercial purposes" only, the affidavit says.
RELATED: Brighton toddler who died of fentanyl poisoning had been left alone for nearly 14 hours, police say
The grand jury investigated and reviewed evidence provided by the North Metro Drug Task Force, the Brighton Police Department and the District Attorney's Office and returned the indictment on Sept. 8. The new case was formally filed in Adams County District Court on Sept. 20.
Montoya and Casias were initially charged with the following:
- Child abuse resulting in death (F2)
- Distribution of a controlled substance - schedule I or schedule II (DF3)
In light of the grand jury indictment, the original cases against both of them were dismissed. Both remain in custody in custody in Adams County. Montoya has been in custody since his initial arrest. Casias was free on bond and rearrested on the new charges, according to the DA's office.
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