Woodbury teen Tara Fitzgerald's overdose death leads to five murder charges

Cole Matenaer (right) is one of five teens facing a murder charge in connection with the death of Fitzgerald (left).

Cole Matenaer (right) is one of five teens facing a murder charge in connection with the death of Fitzgerald (left).

Five teenagers -- including three minors -- face third-degree murder charges in connection with the synthetic drug overdose death of 17-year-old Woodbury resident Tara Fitzgerald.

All five were allegedly involved in the drug dealing chain that resulted in Fitzgerald and a friend of hers ingesting a substance they believed to be LSD while they were hanging out at Fitzgerald's house around midnight on January 11.

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After swallowing two small square pieces of pink paper, the two girls took photos and videos of themselves under the influence, according to the criminal complaint. But their trip took a turn for the worse a couple hours later when Fitzgerald started moaning and apparently having muscle spasms.

Around 9 a.m., Fitzgerald's mother was summoned to the scene. She called 911, and Fitzgerald was transported to Regions Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Fitzgerald's friend told police she obtained the LSD-like drug, later determined to be a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance called 25i-NBOMe, from a 17-year-old classmate named Brian Norlander. Norlander, in turn, told police he got the strips from Alistair Berg, also 17. Berg said he got the drugs from 17-year-old Sydney Johnson. Johnson told police she sold the drugs to Berg for $30, which is the same price Norlander said he paid for them.

Johnson told police she bought three doses of the drug from 19-year-old Cole Matenaer back in October. On January 13, Matenaer was arrested while driving a black Audi. Thirty-four doses of a substance similar to the one Fitzgerald ingested were found in his vehicle.

Matenaer said he sold the doses for $10 each, and admitted to selling "a lot" of them in Woodbury, including some to Johnson. The criminal complaint details calls Matenaer allegedly made from jail that were recorded by officers.

(For more, click to page two).

From the complaint:
In [a] phone call on 1/14/2014 with an individual believed to be his girlfriend, D.M., Matenaer stated, "if you see Sydney, just beat her ass". On 2/10/2014, Officers seized D.M.'s phone. Law enforcement reviewed the data extracted from the phones of both Matenaer and his girlfriend D.M. Law enforcement discovered numerous communications regarding drugs deals and references to the death of victim [Fitzgerald]. Law enforcement also recovered deleted data from D.M.'s phone, i ncluding messages exchanged with a cell phone believed to be used by Defendant Matenaer's mother. D.M. wrote: "I don't think he is emotionally able to tell you what happened. Um, he may be charged for murder. A girl he did not sell to died this weekend and they want to charge him because it came from him even though it went through other people to the girl."
Matenaer told investigators he purchased the drugs from 19-year-old St. Cloud resident Alexander Claussen. Authorities subsequently set up a controlled purchase of 25i-NBOMe from Claussen at a St. Cloud residence known as the "castle," and an undercover officer walked out with five doses of the drug allegedly sold by Claussen. More than 300 doses were later found at his home.

On May 14, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office concluded that Fitzgerald died as a result of an overdose of 25i-NBOMe, paving the way for the murder charges to be filed today. If convicted, each of the five could spend up to 25 years in prison.

In a statement, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput says:
When an illegal drug enters our community, all of those involved -- those who create it, sell it or give it away -- are responsible for what happens with that drug. We are especially concerned with those individuals who distribute illegal drugs to juveniles. We will prosecute those individuals to the full extent of what the law allows.
To read Claussen's criminal complaint for yourself, click to page three.


Claussen complaint

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]