Two La Crosse men have been arrested and are expected to have been in court by Wednesday afternoon, charged with first degree reckless homicide for the overdose death of a 23-year-old female.
Austin Janick, 23, and Travis Heal, 29, will be charged related to the death of Cierra Strametz, who had passed away sometime on Nov. 21 at a home in Boscobel Township, found in the morning by her husband, who had returned home and had last talked with her via Facebook Messenger the night before.
Strametz’s death was due to the events of the previous day, Nov. 20. According to the criminal complaint, Strametz had texted Janick, who was in Prairie du Chien at the time, and set up picking up him and his girlfriend, and then driving up to the La Crosse area to meet Austin’s ‘plug,’ slang for drug dealer. The trio met up with Heal at an Onalaska hotel where they purchased drugs.
Soon after the purchase, they stopped at a nearby convenience store, where Strametz went to the bathroom and started using the drugs. She had drugs left, according to Janick.
According to Dreckman, he believes Strametz did not know the heroin was laced with Fentanyl - a powerful opiod that led to the deaths of more than 28,000 across the United States in 2017.
A man-made drug, Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While officers initially believed the death was drug-related, the official confirmation came after the toxicology report which came two weeks later. That toxicology report showed that Strametz had 22 ng/ml of fentanyl in her system. The report stated that the therapeutic dose is between 1-3 ng/ml.
Investigators from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office worked on the case with a number of different agencies. Richland-Iowa-Grant Drug Task Force, La Crosse Police Department, La Crosse County Sheriff’s Office, Holmen Police Department, Wisconsin Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), Onalaska Police Department and the Grant County Coroner’s Office. Dreckman noted that DCI reviewed phone records to see who Strametz may have been in contact with, while the LaCrosse area departments checked out different locations the suspects may have been the day they gave the drugs to Strametz.
After an in-depth investigation, on Dec. 16, detectives traveled to LaCrosse and arrested Janick, and brought him back to Grant County, where he is currently being held in the Grant County Jail. Heal is currently in the LaCrosse County Jail on unrelated charges, but will be transported to Grant County in the near future.
Dreckman said that they have seen issues with Fentanyl being laced with other drugs, and due to its potency, “the unfortunate thing is if we see more cases, we will see more cases like this” Dreckman said, where a fatality will be the end result.
Janick has a history of drug-related offenses. He was placed on 18 months probation, including 60 days in jail, on a La Crosse County charge of second-offense possession of marijuana in February 2015. Charges of possession of narcotic drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia were dismissed but read in at sentencing.
Janick’s probation was then revoked in September 2016 and he was sentenced to four months jail, served through electronic monitoring, according to court records.
Heal faces La Crosse County charges of second-offense manufacture or delivery of 10 to 50 grams of amphetamine, for an incident Sept. 12. His bail was set at $2,500 at his first court appearance Dec. 5. A calendar call is scheduled for Jan. 12 after the state public defender’s office said it had no attorney for Heal at his court hearing Thursday, according to court records.
Heal was placed on three years probation, including six months jail and a requirement to complete the La Crosse County drug court program, in March 2016 on party to manufacture or delivery of up to 3 grams of heroin. A charge of possession of narcotic drugs as a repeat offender was dismissed but read in at sentencing.
Heal was placed on two years probation in July 2015 on a La Crosse County charge of possession of methamphetamine, with charges of possession with intent of up to 3 grams of methamphetamine, resisting or obstructing an officer and misdemeanor bail jumping read in at sentencing.