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Fentanyl dealers could now face murder charges in King County

King County prosecutors hope charges of Controlled Substance Homicide will help slow a surge in drug overdoses.

SEATTLE — It takes Jesse and Kierra Fisher a few moments to count all of the friends they've lost this past year. 

So far, they can think of four. All of them died from a drug overdose.

"And we still have a few months to go this year," said Jesse.

The couple is finally in treatment and getting their life back on track. Regaining custody of their six children is making life feel whole again.

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"If somebody would have told me I would be doing anything like this a year ago I would have told you guys all you're crazy," said Kierra.

As they look back, they can see one common theme: fentanyl.

The little blue pills look harmless, but the King County Sheriff's Office said they are now found in almost every drug seizure. Roughly one in every three pills contains enough of the drug to kill someone on the first dose. 

The synthetic opioid is surging through communities across the U.S. because it's cheap, easy to sell and takes the place of heroin and prescription drugs for someone looking to get a quick high. 

In 2021, 418 people died of a fatal drug overdose in Washington state as of September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 46% were due to fentanyl.

Now, King County prosecutors are launching a new effort to try and disincentivize the sale of fentanyl by going after the drug dealers themselves and charging them with murder.

"Typically, we go out and make seizures, but now we are using many of our detective resources to work back up the chain," said Sgt. Tim Meyer. "If you are going to try and sell this stuff, we're going to find you."

So far in 2021, the prosecutor's office has charged three people with "Controlled Substance Homicide." Only two were charged in all of 2019-2020. All cases are still in the trial phase.

"These are challenging cases," said Meyer. "But we need to identify that the drugs that were purchased yesterday are going to take a life today."

For Kierra and Jesse, it's whatever it takes to prevent another friend from losing their life. 

Recovery for them came at Ideal Option, where the couple was allowed to enter treatment together.

"I'm so proud of us today," said Kierra. "I want them to feel that, too."