Just a day before the anniversary of Alexandra Capelouto’s death by fentanyl poisoning, California State Senator Melissa Melendez’s office announced Tuesday, Dec. 22 the senator would present legislation called “Alexandra’s Law” to legislators in January.
Alexandra is the 2017 graduate of Great Oak High School who was found dead by her family on Dec. 23, 2019. She was home visiting for the holidays from Arizona State when she obtained what her father, Matt Capelouto, said was believed to be oxycodone, but turned out to be a street drug laced with a lethal dose of fentanyl.
“She was deceived, she didn’t know what she was taking, she didn’t know what she was getting,” Capelouto said. “If it had been legitimate oxycodone pills, she would be alive today.”
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, “fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine.” It has become increasingly popular for illegal drug manufacturers to use synthetic fentanyl to boost the impact of the drugs they sell. The problem is, fentanyl is measured in the millionths, meaning it takes very little fentanyl to make the drugs lethal.
“As the mother of five children, I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a child to drug poisoning,” Melendez said in a press release.
“We are fighting a two-front war against an epidemic that is not going to go away by itself. It’s time we punish those who knowingly sell fentanyl to unsuspecting buyers.”
According to one possible draft of the proposed legislation, once a person is arrested and charged with the distribution of fentanyl, they will be made to sign a statement that reads: “You are hereby advised that the illicit manufacture and distribution of fentanyl, and substances containing any amount of fentanyl, inflicts a grave health risk to those who ingest or are exposed to them. It is extremely dangerous to human life to manufacture or distribute fentanyl, or a substance containing any fentanyl. If you do so, and as a result, a person dies, you can be charged with murder.”
Capelouto, who has been working nonstop since the death of his daughter to shine a light on the fentanyl issue in the United States, was instrumental in bringing the issue to Melendez’s desk.
“It’s a warning saying that, ‘Hey, if you continue to sell drugs and, and now somebody dies now you’re going to be charged with murder,’” Capelouto said in a phone call with Valley News. “It gives the drug dealer an opportunity to straighten his life up. Then on top of that, if he does continue to sell, and God forbid somebody dies and then absolutely that person needs to be behind bars so they are not killing more people.”
In the press release, Capelouto was appreciative of the announcement of the legislation and sent a message to all that would read it.
“The holidays are a very difficult time of year for all parents who have lost a child,” Capelouto said in the press release. “It’s especially rough for my family because Alex’s Angelversary is December 23rd. Introducing this legislation makes December a little brighter, not only for my family but all the other parents in our organization. All I have to say is, don’t underestimate the resolve of bereaved parents. Many of us have come together and we are ready to fight for change.”
Capelouto has done nothing but fight since Alex passed.
He was initially angry when he discovered that the drug dealer suspect of selling the drug to his daughter would never face murder charges for selling his daughter a drug they knew wasn’t what she had asked for.
He approached the Temecula City Council in February to talk about what happened to his daughter, as well as three other young people who died in similar circumstances in the three weeks prior.
“I’m asking you to help me fight this epidemic,” he told the council.
Since then, Capelouto has become heavily involved in working on changing state and federal laws pertaining to the distribution of fentanyl on the streets.
He held a rally in Temecula on Father’s Day to spotlight awareness, he has worked with organizations such as druginducedhomicide.org, and late in October, traveled with his wife and a coalition of parents and advocates to Ohio as part of a new organization called Coalition for Awareness of Synthetic Analogues (CASA).
There, the group met with James Carroll, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy for the United States.
“I was most compelled by being in a room with 25 other parents who know a pain like no other,” Capelouto said at the time. “It was not a ‘pity party.’ More a comforting feeling. We laughed. we cried, we instantly formed the deepest of friendships.”
And they continued to fight.
Alexandra’s Law is the culmination of his yearlong work in California.
“When it first happened, and maybe this is just the typical dad/guy thing, you want somebody to be held accountable, right?” Capelouto said. “There’s such a strong sense and need for that. But as time has gone by, and I’ve had more time to think things through, things shift, and it sort of changes from focusing on that need for accountability to just wanting to save lives. Innocent kids and young adult lives.”
He said he is calling on all parents who have lost a child to similar circumstances to fight along with him. He routinely meets and talks with parents all over the country dealing with the grief of the loss of their child.
“We need parental support,” Capelouto said. “We need all the parents that are in our shoes, all the parents that are in this terrible club, to step up. It’s unfortunate, but a lot of the parents in our shoes, because they’ve been conditioned to believe that their child just died of an overdose, that’s what they roll with. Their mindset has been corrupted into that kind of thinking when in reality fentanyl is involved. Most likely their child was lethally poisoned.”
When the law goes to Sacramento, he said he is hopeful a groundswell of support will push it through, but he’s been told passing the law isn’t a sure thing.
“I’ve been told it’s going to be a fight,” Capelouto said. “I don’t know all the ins and outs of our bureaucratic political process. I’ve been told to prepare to potentially be disappointed. I’ve been told that by a couple of political representatives now, but I’m going to say this, they don’t know the resolve of bereaved parents, and that’s what we’ll be bringing to this.
“I just really hope that it’s not going to be politics and arguing about this bill, that they’re going to listen to us parents who lost a child and let us argue our case. It’s not a right or left issue.
“It is about what’s right to protect the citizens of California, the people of California.”
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.