15-Year-Old Facing 40 Years After Allegedly Selling Fentanyl to Teen Who Died

The girl, who was arrested in Wisconsin after an 18-year-old died of an overdose, was selling fentanyl to pay off a drug debt, according to court documents.
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration shows a closeup of the fentanyl-laced sky blue pills.

A 15-year-old Wisconsin girl has been charged as an adult for allegedly selling another teen fentanyl that caused him to die of an overdose, in one of the more extreme examples of a death-by-dealer case. 

The girl, who VICE News is not naming, is facing up to 40 years in prison for first-degree reckless homicide; her defense is pushing to have her tried as a juvenile, according to a Fox News affiliate. 


In Wisconsin, anyone accused of causing the death of another person by providing or selling drugs is charged with reckless homicide, a class C felony. It’s one of 16 states where children as young as 10 who are accused of homicide offenses are automatically charged as adults; it’s also one of three states where 17-year-olds charged with crimes are automatically considered adults. But legal and medical experts told VICE News that trying children as adults, particularly when they may be using drugs, is unfair because adolescent brains aren’t fully developed. They also said charging people with homicide when they’re linked to a fatal overdose could exacerbate the overdose crisis by making people scared to call for help. 

Wisconsin is one of 23 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that has drug-induced homicide laws, and officials pursue those cases aggressively. The state is third in the country for drug-induced homicide prosecutions, according to WTMJ-TV, and the majority of the cases involved friends and family members of the people who died or low-level dealers, a 2017 FOX6 investigation found. 

In the case of the 15-year-old, police responded to a call from the grandparents of an 18-year-old in De Pere, a city about two hours north of Milwaukee on Dec. 3, who said their grandson was locked in his room and not letting anyone inside, according to police documents. When police broke inside the room, they found the teen—who they referred to as J.D.M.—slumped over in a sitting position dead. 


J.D.M’s grandmother said he “had a drug problem and was smoking Percocets,” the documents said. His mother said he’d gone to rehab last spring. He died of fentanyl intoxication. Police said the girl who sold him the pill was selling blue fentanyl pills.  

Police found drug paraphernalia in J.D.M’s room and later used his girlfriend’s cell phone to trace a Facebook messenger conversation he had with a girl he’d arranged to buy drugs from the night before he died. Police then determined the identity of the person J.D.M was chatting with to be the 15-year-old girl. Brown County Drug Task Force had already previously set up a “controlled buy” (a drug deal monitored by police) from the girl, during which a buyer allegedly purchased five blue fentanyl pills from her. After J.D.M’s death, police said the girl sold them 10 pills they believed were fentanyl in another controlled buy. They arrested her on Dec. 6. 

The girl, who is four feet tall and 100 pounds, lived with her grandmother and shared a room with her sister, according to police reports. She said she worked a housekeeping job after school and wasn’t usually out late at night because her grandmother wanted her home. 

Police seized 775 fentanyl pills, almost $4,000 in cash, and weed cartridges from a shoebox in the girl’s room. According to police, her story changed a few times while they interrogated her, but she repeatedly said she started selling fentanyl pills, which she referred to as “Perks” after becoming addicted to them. (Police also said all blue M30 pills being sold in the area, referred to as “Perks” or Percocets, are actually fentanyl and that both dealers and users are aware of that fact.) 


The girl said she was selling the pills in part to pay off a $500 drug debt she had racked up from smoking weed and “perks.” She said she was introduced to the man who provided her the pills by a male friend. 

While discussing how she was asked to become a drug runner for the man, police said she “covered her eyes with her hands, looked down, and began to cry.” 

According to police, the girl eventually admitted she sold either one or two pills to J.D.M the night before he died. She said she had hung out with his girlfriend a few times but hadn’t met him before selling him the drugs. She allegedly said “no one else died” from that batch of pills. Police said J.D.M believed he was buying Percocet. 

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Ion Meyn, an associate law professor at the University of Wisconsin, said state statutes that charge young people as adults are “medieval.” With reckless homicide crimes, he said prosecutors would need to show that a person is “aware that they created an unreasonable and substantial risk of death,” which is at odds with how teenage brains work.

“Adolescents are overrepresented statistically in every category of reckless behavior because they are teenagers.... They can't control impulses. They don't weigh the consequences, their actions. They can’t resist peer pressure,” he said. 


“In this particular case, she was subject to an older dealer who was really pushing her to sell these Percocets that were laced with fentanyl.” 

“In this particular case, she was subject to an older dealer who was really pushing her to sell these Percocets that were laced with fentanyl.”

But because of Wisconsin’s drug-induced homicide law, it’s even easier to charge minors as adults.. 

“All the prosecutor needs to show is that there is a controlled substance that the person knew was a controlled substance, the person delivered that controlled substance to someone and they died,” Meyn said. 

17 and Hooked on Benzo Dope

Dr. Jessica Gray, a family and addiction medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said it’s not uncommon for people to sell fentanyl to pay for their own drugs. 

“A teenager with an active substance use a medical condition and charging her with murder as an adult is really no solution,” Gray said. 

Gray said the frontal lobe of someone’s brain, which gives them pause before making rash decisions, isn’t fully developed until they’re around 25 years old. That brain development is further compromised by substance use disorders. 

“What we see with folks who start using substances really early is that sort of the brain is hijacked by these reward pathways and so they don't have enough of their frontal lobe development to be able to make smart decisions,” Gray said. 


Teen overdose rates doubled from 2019 to 2020 because of the proliferation of fentanyl in the drug supply, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last April. Gray said drug-induced homicide cases can increase overdose rates because people will flee when they’re with someone who is overdosing rather than call for help if they think they’ll be severely punished. 

If the girl was tried as a juvenile, Meyn said she wouldn’t necessarily be detained because her crime was nonviolent. And social workers would be involved in determining the outcome of her case. 

If she’s convicted as an adult, he said she’ll be sent to adult prison when she turns 17. She’ll also have a felony conviction, which will impact her ability to secure a job or housing in the future. Juveniles who are convicted, on the other hand, have their records sealed. 

Even if the girl’s lawyer is successful in having the case adjudicated in the juvenile system, the girl’s name and face have already been made public. 

Sharlen Moore, executive director of Youth Justice Milwaukee, said that’s one of the most concerning aspects of Wisconsin’s treatment of young people charged as adults. 

“Minors should have some sort of protection. And even in this case, if a minor is tried as an adult, they're still a minor. I should not be able to see their personal information. It's something that could be predatory,” she said. 

Moore believes it would make more sense to engage in restorative justice with young people, which helps them understand the consequences of their actions. 

“Our criminal legal system is designed as a way to punish. It's not designed as a way to rehabilitate,” she said.

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.

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