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Press Release

Defendant Sentenced to 10 Years in Case Featured on HBO Documentary “The Crime of the Century”

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Assistant U. S. Attorneys Adam Gordon (619) 546-6720

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY — October 19, 2022

SAN DIEGO— Cole Thomas Salazar was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo to 120 months for his role in supplying the fatal dose of powdered fentanyl that resulted in the death of 24-year-old Sarah Elizabeth Fuzzell on November 3, 2020. 

According to his plea agreement, Salazar used an online classified ads service to offer controlled substances for sale. After communicating with Fuzzell online, Salazar sold fentanyl to her on November 2, 2020, and she subsequently died from this fentanyl. On January 10, 2021, law enforcement arrested Salazar and found on his person packages of heroin and fentanyl. 

A search of a nearby hotel room turned up numerous quantities of controlled substances including more fentanyl and dealer-related paraphernalia such as scales, baggies and pay-and-owe sheets. The plea agreement stipulates for Salazar that the commission of the offense of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death and/or serious bodily injury applies. The investigation and arrest of Salazar and his co-defendant Valerie Lynn Addison was featured in the HBO “The Crime of the Century.”

Addison is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Bencivengo on November 16, 2022.

“Our community lost a vibrant, intelligent 24-year-old victim to powdered fentanyl,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “We can’t stress enough the danger of powdered fentanyl. If you are a drug dealer who chooses to sell powdered fentanyl – disregarding the extreme risk – our office will prosecute you for any death resulting from your sale.”

“Drug dealers like Mr. Salazar must be held accountable for the rising fentanyl deaths we have seen in San Diego communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly Howe. “Fake pills and powdered fentanyl have no place in San Diego, and we will continue to bring those who sell these drugs to justice.”

“The sentence imposed on the lethal dose of powered fentanyl that resulted in the tragic death of a young person sends a clear message to drug criminal drug dealers,” said Chad Plantz, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “There are serious consequences to peddling these dangerous substances. HSI along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to seek out and bring to justice those involved drug overdoses of any kind.”

This case is the result of ongoing efforts by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, and the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate and prosecute the distribution of dangerous illegal drugs—fentanyl in particular—that result in overdose deaths. The Drug Enforcement Administration created the Overdose Response Team as a response to the increase in overdose deaths in San Diego County. Investigators from the DEA’s Overdose Response Team led the investigation into Fuzzell’s death.

DEFENDANTS                                             Case Number 21cr3518-CAB                                       

Cole Thomas Salazar                          Age: 32                                   San Diego, CA

Valerie Lynn Addison                        Age: 40                                   San Diego, CA



Possession with Intent to Distribute (Fentanyl) – Title 18, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1)

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison


Possession with Intent to Distribute (Fentanyl and Methamphetamine) – Title18, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1)

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison


Drug Enforcement Administration

Homeland Security Investigations

Federal Bureau of Investigation

California Department of Health Care Services

San Diego Sheriff’s Department

San Diego Police Department

San Diego County District Attorney’s Office

Updated October 19, 2022

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS22-1019-Salazar