UPDATE | Nov. 20 — The court has dismissed this case against the defendant involving reckless manslaughter.
Since charges were dropped, Denver7 has removed the defendant's name from this story.
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Prosecutors in Arapahoe County are gearing up to try one of the first fentanyl-related manslaughter cases in Colorado.
The defendant was charged with reckless manslaughter for the 2020 death of Maddie Wright, 23.
“She was very full of energy,” said Maddie’s mother, Julie Wright. “Always social.”
Julie wasn’t sure the case would ever make it to the courts.
“Investigators just received funding and allotments to be able to look at these deaths,” Julie said. “So I do believe that they filed charges timely and quickly.”
Prosecution in fentanyl cases is rare because investigators often don't know where the drugs came from, who distributed it and with what intent.
“What we think she thought she was getting was an Oxy pill to sleep, and that wasn’t it,” Julie said. “It had complete, pure fentanyl in it.”
Prosecutors allege the defendant not only knew the pill was laced with fentanyl, but also watched as Maddie took the pill and failed to render aid.
“There’s so many different things going on right now with this epidemic,” Julie said. “Some do not know what they’re delivering, and some are delivering it deliberately — knowing that fentanyl is a weapon of death and it’s not being investigated. And I do feel that this is what happened in this case.”
“It’s certainly an epidemic,” said Kelley Gadden, friend of the Wright family. “There’s xylazine that’s out there now, so the fentanyl is kind of evolving into other drugs that are hurting and killing people, also.”
The defendant appeared in court Monday for a hearing, but did not make any comments in court or to the media. Her defense attorneys are seeking a full dismissal of charges, arguing prosecutors failed to file charges within the three-year statute of limitations in Colorado.
“I miss her every day, every minute,” said Julie. “It’s something I can never put to words, and I never want another mother to go through the same.”
Julie has now started a foundation in Maddie’s name to bring awareness to the fentanyl crisis.
“And with (Maddie’s) messaging and the way she spread love, we’re doing the same thing with the foundation — education, harm reduction,” Gadden said.
“Our goal is to inform as many people as we can as often as we can,” Julie said.
The judge postponed the hearing for dismissal until Monday, Nov. 20.
Fentanyl was attributed to 1,200 deaths in Colorado in 2021, more than double the number from 2019.