A Polk County grand jury has charged a 49-year-old woman with first-degree murder in the death of a 31-year-old woman who authorities said died of a fentanyl overdose.
- Malita Mendez arrested Tuesday in Polk County
- Deputies say Kalie Joslin died in October
- New state allow allowed authorities to bring charges
It is the first Polk prosecution for a fentanyl death under a new state law that went into affect last October. Previously, fentanyl hadn't been listed under state laws allowing drug dealers to be charged with murder.
The Sheriff's Office said Malita Mendez sold fentanyl laced heroin to Kalie Joslin on Oct. 28. She was found unresponsive the next morning in her bedroom.
Investigators said text messages found later on Joslin's cell phone indicated that she was planning a drug purchase from Mendez.
Mendez was arrested Tuesday evening at a home where Nancy Bryon lives. Byron said Mendez rented a one-room efficiency from her. She said she was aware of previous drug charges against Mendez but said the charges happened when Mendez lived at a previous address.
Byron was upset to learn about the fentanyl linked murder charge.
"It's something wrong and you don't do that. You just don't do that," she said.
Polk State Attorney Brian Haas was pleased the new state law allowed authorities to bring the murder charge.
"Very frustrating when we knew exactly what was going on," Haas said. "These people were dying because they were using fentanyl, and they didn’t even know necessarily that they were."
Hass said there was a good chance there would be other cases where Polk residents had died of fentanyl overdoses and charges would be brought after the medical examiner ruled on the cause of death.
"And if the evidence is there we are going to continue to prosecute these cases," he said.