Man convicted of seven felonies in connection to overdosed teenager in Santa Cruz

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A man is convicted of seven felonies in connection with sexually preying on a 16-year-old who later overdosed in his home. 

According to the Office of the District Attorney for the County of Santa Cruz, Michael James Russel, 23, was convicted of giving drugs to two teenage girls. He was also convicted for engaging in sexual activity with both victims. 

The 16-year-old victim, identified as Emma Lace Price, was found dead inside Russell’s parents’ home on November 12, 2021. Price died of an overdose. 

Later, it was determined she had four separate narcotics in her system at the time of her death. 

Investigation from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office revealed that the victim has been given narcotics by multiple dealers in the days leading up to her death. One of those dealers was Russell. 

The suit filed against Russell showed his actions on the night of Emma’s death. According to the suit, Russell provided Xanax and Fentanyl-laced Percocet to Emma on Nov. 12, 2021. When she began to overdose, Russell took off her clothes and put her in a cold shower. 

He then injected her with Narcan and attempted CPR. No one in the home called 911 for 30 minutes. 

Emma later died of acute fentanyl toxicity.

This was an incredibly tragic case which has had a devastating impact on E.P.’s family, her loved ones, and many other concerned members of the community. While nothing can bring back their daughter, nor does this sentence represent the pain and trauma of their loss, our Office hopes this disposition will further protect the public by ensuring a defendant who takes advantage of underage victims is held accountable for his crimes.

However, after reviewing evidence, the DA’s office stated it does not believe that there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Russell is culpable for Emma’s death. 

Russell has been sentenced to 10 years in state prison, and he will be required to register as a sex offender after he is released.


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.