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Prosecutor says no plea deal for suspected drug seller in Minnesota teen’s overdose death

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news Duluth, 55802
Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

For his alleged role in the distribution of a synthetic drug that killed a 17-year-old Woodbury, Minn., girl, Alexander Lee Claussen will not be offered a plea deal, the prosecutor told the court Wednesday.

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"Because of the defendant’s place in the chain of events, I am not going to offer a plea deal in this case," assistant Washington County attorney Imran Ali said. "He can either go to trial or enter a straight plea."

Ali said he would seek a prison sentence.

Claussen, 19, of Sauk Centre, Minn., was one of five teens charged last month with third-degree murder in the case.

Investigators say they traced the chain of custody of the substance, charging each teen who played a role in handing it off to the next person.

Claussen was as far as they could trace it, prosecutors said.

Also charged were Cole Alexander Matenaer, 19, of Woodbury as well as three Woodbury 17-year-olds who were students at Woodbury High School: Sydney Claire Johnson, Alistair Curtis Berg and Brian Phillip Norlander.

Prosecutor Ali said he is not likely to offer a plea deal to Matenaer, the other adult charged in the case.

The county attorney’s office is seeking to have the three juveniles certified as adults. Motions are pending before the court, and each of the minor defendants has upcoming hearings regarding the matter.

The charges stem from the Jan. 11 death of Tara Fitzgerald. She was found unresponsive in her Woodbury home and taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where she died a short time later. Her friends told police she had ingested what she believed was LSD the previous night, according to a criminal complaint.

The substance turned out to be a synthetic drug called 25i-NBOMe, according to a toxicology analysis by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Police determined that Matenaer had sold the drug to Johnson, who sold it to Berg, who sold it to Norlander, who then sold it to Fitzgerald, the complaint said.

When police arrested Matenaer, they found 36 doses of 25i-NBOMe in his vehicle, the complaint said.

Investigators next traced the drugs to Claussen, the complaint said. During a search of his home, police reportedly found more than 300 doses of the substance.

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