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CRIME CORRESPONDENT NEWS DESK

Michael Anthony Puente

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Irving narcotics authorities arrested a suspect Thursday in connection with the September heroin overdose of 16-year-old Ana Rojas. On Tuesday, Irving police announced they will charge Michael Anthony Puente with murder.Irving police announced they will file a murder charge with the Dallas County district attorney's office against 19-year-old Michael Anthony Puente in the death of 16-year-old Ana Rojas, a 10th-grader at Winfree Academy Charter School in Irving.
She was found unconscious Sept. 2 at an apartment in the 1800 block of Pioneer Drive in Irving. She was there to spend the night after an evening of partying elsewhere, police said.
When police and paramedics arrived, someone at the apartment was already performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but the girl died at Baylor Medical Center at Irving.
The Dallas County medical examiner found that Ana overdosed on heroin and diphenhydramine, components of cheese heroin. Drug dealers have in recent years marketed Mexican black tar heroin and ground up cold medicine as cheese, with a special emphasis on creating younger users – some still in elementary school.
Ana is one of at least 26 youths 18 or younger who have died from the deadly combo since 2005, according to a database kept by The Dallas Morning News.
Toxicology tests also found she had used marijuana and Xanax.
Gerardo Rojas, 48, Ana's father, said he was pleased to hear Irving was pursuing murder charges, "but it's not going to bring my daughter back."
"At least this monster is not going to kill another teenager," he said.
Officer David Tull, an Irving police spokesman, characterized Ana's relationship with Mr. Puente as "an acquaintance," but did not elaborate. He also did not say what led authorities to Mr. Puente or when he allegedly gave the girl the heroin.
Mr. Puente, who has a history of drug arrests, was arrested Jan. 10 in Wilmer. He had been at the Dallas County Judicial Treatment Center, a drug rehabilitation facility in the city south of Dallas, officials said.
He was ordered to go to the Wilmer facility after his release from the Dallas County Jail in November after his last arrest on drug charges, county officials said.
Mr. Puente was also arrested in March 2006 on a charge of possession of a controlled substance in a Dallas Independent School District drug-free zone, according to Dallas County Jail officials.
He is being held at the Irving Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail. Investigators say they plan to file their case with the Dallas County district attorney's office soon.
Within days of Ana's death, community leaders met with Irving Mayor Herbert Gears and Police Chief Larry Boyd, demanding that the death be vigorously investigated.
"I congratulate Irving," said Carlos Quintanilla, an anti-cheese activist who attended that Irving meeting. "We felt this should not be ignored. Someone died. This is a strong deterrent to the kids out there who are selling this drug. Hopefully other cities will follow this."
Jurors could begin hearing evidence in March against the other local man charged with murder over a cheese heroin overdose, 20-year-old Deleon Juan Vanegas.
Dallas police arrested him in the March 31 death of Fernando Cortez Jr., a 15-year-old Molina High School student.
Authorities said that Mr. Vanegas, the boyfriend of Fernando's sister, gave the young man cheese heroin while the three were at a Far East Dallas home.
Fernando was found dead from an overdose on a couch the next morning.
"I don't believe it's a murder case," said Mr. Vanegas' attorney, Heath Hyde. "It wasn't a situation where they were holding him down and pouring it down his throat. When people use drugs, bad things happen."
He said he was not playing down the seriousness of the youth's death.
"A young man died," Mr. Hyde said. "Cheese is a problem. It's a terrible thing, but I don't believe that murder is the correct resolution of the case."

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