SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION-TV) Feb. 8, 2023, at 9:48 a.m.- Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell announced a man was sentenced to 10 years on Tuesday for furnishing narcotics to two underage teenage victims, one of which died from an overdose
Michael James Russell, 23, was convicted of seven felony charges stemming from giving two female victims, ages 16 and 17, narcotics and engaging in a "pattern of sexual activity" with the two victims. On top of the prison sentence, he will have to register as a sex offender when he is released.
The 16-year-old female victim, Lace Price, was found dead in Russell's home on the night of November 12, 2021. She was found with four separate narcotics in her system, according to Rosell.
During an investigation, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office determined that the 16-year-old had obtained illegal narcotics in the days leading up to her death, including from Russell.
"After a thorough review of the evidence collected and documented by the Sheriff’s Office, the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office does not believe the evidence in the case establishes proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Russell is culpable for E.P.’s death," said Rosell.
This was an incredibly tragic case which has had a devastating impact on E.P.’s family, her loved ones, and many other concerned members of the community. While nothing can bring back their daughter, nor does this sentence represent the pain and trauma of their loss, our Office hopes this disposition will further protect the public by ensuring a defendant who takes advantage of underage victims is held accountable for his crimes.JEFFREY S. ROSELL Santa Cruz County District Attorney
Plea deal reached for man who molested Santa Cruz teen that later died
A man pleaded no contest Tuesday in a Santa Cruz County courtroom on seven felony counts of molesting two female minors, according to the Santa Cruz County DA's Office.
Michael Russell, 24, of San Jose, was arrested on Dec. 2, 2021, for furnishing drugs to minors and having sexual relations with minors by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office.
Russell agreed to a plea deal and will be sentenced to 10 years in prison. One of his victims, Lace Price, was found dead after a believed fentanyl overdose in Corralitos, Calif. The DA's office would not confirm Price's cause of death.
Russell was not charged with the 16-year-old's death but was found guilty of giving his two female victims narcotics.
He will be sentenced to 10 years in jail on Feb. 8. Russell will also have to register as a sex offender for life.