Berks DA: Fentanyl is common denominator of death

 

Authorities have charged the dealer who allegedly sold the fentanyl that eventually killed a former Slate Belt wrestling star last December.

Jerry S. Gutierrez, of North Eighth Street in Allentown, faces a felony count of drug delivery resulting in death for his role in the fatal overdose of 26-year-old Michael Racciato, a former state champion at Pen Argyl High School. The Northampton County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against the 38-year-old last Friday, and District Judge Douglas Schlegel arraigned him early Tuesday morning.

Gutierrez is the second man charged in connection with Racciato’s death. In February, authorities announced charges against 41-year-old Christopher Ferrante, who had been with Racciato the night he died.

On Christmas Day, Colonial Regional police were dispatched to the Towne Place Hotel in Lower Nazareth Township to investigate a report of an unresponsive man inside his car. Officers found Racciato, who was pronounced dead about 4 p.m.

An autopsy revealed Racciato died from a fentanyl overdose. Authorities said they found Racciato in possession of three “double-bagged” baggies of fentanyl stamped “CHP” and “Pikachu,” according to court records.

A search of the cell phone found in his vehicle revealed text messages on Dec. 24 between Racciato and Ferrante allegedly detailing two drug deals, according to authorities.

During an interview with investigators on Jan. 6, Ferrante admitted picking up Racciato from the hospital on Christmas Eve and driving him to a Walmart in Lower Nazareth Township to pick up his vehicle. Ferrante told authorities that he’d regularly supply Racciato with heroin in order to support his own habit.

Ferrante allegedly admitted buying fentanyl from “a guy he called ‘Pikachu,’” according to the criminal complaint filed against Gutierrez. When shown a photo of Gutierrez by investigators, Ferrante said he was the man he knew as Pikachu, who supplied him with the drugs that he eventually sold to Racciato on Christmas Eve.

In October 2020, Allentown police arrested Ferrante for drug possession and allegedly found him with 40 double-bagged packets of fentanyl stamped “CHP” and “Pikachu.” In December, Allentown police investigating Gutierrez for dealing arrested him with 135 of the same baggies of suspected heroin, according to records.

Authorities said Racciato overdosed on Christmas Eve on fentanyl he bought from Ferrante, who later picked up Racciato at the hospital. He allegedly sold Racciato another three to five bags of fentanyl after retrieving him from the hospital. He told investigators that he bought all the fentanyl he sold to Racciato that day from Gutierrez.

Gutierrez now faces single counts of drug delivery resulting in death, possession with intent to deliver and criminal use of a communication device, all felonies. The district judge set bail at $100,000. Gutierrez failed to post bail and was sent to Northampton County Prison to await a preliminary hearing tentatively scheduled for May 14.

Ferrante, meanwhile, remains in county jail on similar charges awaiting a formal arraignment scheduled for July.

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