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3 dead of suspected fentanyl overdoses in Cortez

The victims had no physical injuries and carbon monoxide poisoning was ruled out, according to Cortez Police.

CORTEZ, Colo. — Three deaths at a motel in Cortez are being investigated as likely fentanyl overdoses, according to a Facebook post from the Cortez Police Department.

The victims were found dead in a room at the National 9 motel at 301 W. Main St. around noon on Friday, March 4. Police were initially called to the motel on a welfare check and when officers arrived they found alcohol and suspected opioids, including fentanyl, in the room.

The victims have been identified as:

  • Shondella L. Silas, 44, of Towaoc
  • Tharon F. Grayhair, 40, of White Mesa, Utah
  • Tilden D. Arrates, 27, of Towaoc

Silas and Arrates were members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, according to Tribal Chairman Manuel Heart.

RELATED: Investigators suspect counterfeit oxycodone pill killed teen

Autopsies and toxicology analyses were conducted Monday by the Montezuma County Coroner’s Office. Results could take two to four weeks, however Coroner George Deavers speculated that drug use was a cause of death and estimated that the victims died early Friday morning.

The Cortez Fire Protection District responded to the hotel to check for carbon monoxide poisoning and ruled it out as a cause of death. There were also no signs of foul play in the room or any physical injuries to the victims, police said.

Counterfeit OxyContin pills laced with fentanyl are showing up in Cortez, according to the Montezuma-Cortez Narcotics Investigation Team.

RELATED: 5 found dead inside Commerce City apartment identified

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, pharmaceutical fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It was developed for pain management of cancer patients.

The potency of fentanyl makes it especially dangerous, said Assistant Police Chief Andy Brock. Because the street product is unregulated, users don’t know level of drug concentration per dose, he went on to say.

Last month five people died inside an apartment in Commerce City from suspected fentanyl overdoses.

Commerce City Police Department said around 3:45 p.m. on  Feb. 20, emergency personnel responded to an apartment at the North Range Crossings Apartments on East 104th Avenue on a report of several people who were unconscious.

Five victims were found dead and later identified as:

  • Sabas Daniel Marquez, 24
  • Humberto Arroy-Ledezma, 32
  • Karina Joy Rodriquez, 28
  • Stephine Sonya Monroe, 29
  • Jennifer Danielle Cunningham, 32

District Attorney Brian Mason said the deaths were fentanyl overdoses, and the victims likely thought they were inhaling something else, possibly cocaine. 

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