Local

‘Very aggressive’: State attorney vows to aggressively charge those responsible for fentanyl deaths

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — A Cocoa man accused of supplying the fentanyl that led to the 2020 overdose death of a local woman has pleaded not guilty.

>>> STREAM CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS LIVE <<<

The suspect was indicted in February, but he has been in the custody of the Department of Corrections on an unrelated case.

The man’s recent case is one of many fentanyl prosecutions.

Read: U.S. lawmakers target foreign cartels in fight against fentanyl trafficking

Edward Merek, 33, was scheduled to be released on May 1, but he is facing new legal troubles in Brevard County.

Merek’s attorney waived his court appearance Friday afternoon on charges of first-degree felony murder, distribution of a controlled substance and sale or delivery of fentanyl.

Merek was indicted in February and is being held without bond at the Brevard County Jail in connection to the overdose death of 23-year-old Alicia Gross in April 2020.

Read: Deputies: Florida woman charged after supplying own mother with fatal dose of fentanyl

According to arrest records, the cause of Gross’s death was fentanyl toxicity.

Investigators believe Merek sold Gross the fentanyl about an hour before she died in Cocoa.

During last week’s press conference about a multi-agency initiative against fentanyl, Brevard-Seminole State Attorney Phil Archer said his office would prosecute cases involving fentanyl-related deaths.

“I can tell you in Brevard and Seminole County, both of my counties, we’re being very aggressive with these fentanyl dealers,” he said. “And if they lead to overdose deaths, (they) were charged with first-degree murder.”

Read: White House releases new plan for addressing fentanyl supply chain

The state attorney’s office began prosecuting cases in Seminole County in 2016 as part of a local initiative with the sheriff’s office.

But many of those early cases were tossed many over whether fentanyl constituted a “synthetic of opium.”

The Florida legislature has provided further clarification.

Since then, the state attorney’s office said it prosecuted several cases with defendants who chose to accept plea agreements.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.