On the porch of his home in north Denver, Dan Marquez still can’t believe it.
"All my kids are good kids,” Dan Marquez said. “I really feel like it’s a dream or whatever, you know? It’s not reality."
It’s a heartbreaking amount of loss. Marquez’s son, Sam Marquez, is gone, as well as his daughter-in-law, Karina Rodriguez, his son-in-law and two of Karina’s friends.
All five died over the weekend in a tragic drug poisoning inside Sam and Rodriguez’s Commerce City apartment.
“My stepdaughter went in there because my wife was really worried about it,” Dan Marquez said. “One o’clock, two o’clock, nobody… kept calling them, no answer. They all have cell phones, so we called their cell phones — no answer. So, [my wife] called her daughter, Salina. So, Salina went over there — the door was open — she walked in, and they’re all laying on the floor, man.”
The district attorney confirmed it was fentanyl.
Marquez says they thought they were doing cocaine, according to friends. What they got was a lethal dose of something much more powerful.
“Fentanyl’s no good, man,” Marquez said. “It’s the devil. It must have just took them, just like that. All five of them."
“No one was able to get to a phone to call 911 for a medical emergency,” said Commerce City Chief of Police Clint Nichols. “So, it happened pretty quickly."
"It’s going around here,” Marquez said. “Don’t do any of that s---."
Dan Marquez’s grown daughter, Cora, somehow survived. So did a baby.
Salina found Sam Marquez and Rodriguez's newborn daughter in a bedroom.
“The baby wasn’t crying at all, so she goes in the room — she must have heard Salina — and the baby started crying,” Dan Marquez said. “So, I think maybe there was an angel or somebody there taking care of her. Sam, he’s a good guy. He’s 24. He loved his job, always talking about his job, talking about his new daughter. He loved his daughter. He said, ‘That’s the new love of my life.’"
Dr. Jennifer Tippitt specializes in research surrounding substance use at the University of Denver.
She said fentanyl poisonings are characterized by taking people off guard.
"Folks think that they know what they're taking, they know what their dosages are... they know what they can handle," she said. "More and more often, very common drugs like cocaine, like heroin and even tabs of ecstasy are being cut with fentanyl, which is an extremely powerful and dangerous opioid, and when ingested, people die almost immediately."
Tippitt said she tells people "all the time" that drug testing strips are available and easy to order on sites like Amazon.
"They're real cheap," Tippitt said. "If you are someone who dabbles infrequently, maybe as a celebratory kind of measure, it's really good to have those on hand, just in case. If you are someone who utilizes drugs more frequently, certainly, a fentanyl testing kit is recommended, but also have some Narcan on hand."