In a deal that spared him a potential life sentence, a La Jolla man has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for selling fentanyl-laced pills to a woman who later died.
Joshua Alan Breslow, 54, was originally charged with murder in the September 2020 death of Sally Manchester Ricchiuti. She is the daughter of well-known San Diego developer Doug Manchester.
Breslow pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and two counts of possession for sale of a controlled substance. He’s now facing a 15-year prison sentence.
Though Breslow’s attorney disputes the claim, prosecutors say Breslow was aware the pills he was selling were tainted with fentanyl. It was the basis for the original murder charge, which would have potentially carried a 25-years-to-life prison sentence.
“It doesn’t look like she knew what she was taking, and so when she was taking these pills, it did not appear like she was aware they were laced with fentanyl,” Deputy District Attorney Joel Madero said.
Even after Manchester Ricchiuti’s death, investigators found hundreds of fentanyl pills, cocaine and other drugs in Breslow’s La Jolla home, according to prosecutors.
Madero said the plea agreement to a lesser charge was part of a "complicated negotiation" process, in part, made with input from the Manchester family. The prosecutor said the case is a testament to the growing number of fentanyl-related cases and deaths.
“You just never know, and it could be in pill form, it could be powder form, we’ve seen in the past cocaine laced with fentanyl, letting people who are addicted to substances know that this is extremely dangerous,” said Madero.
Since 2020, 168 defendants have been prosecuted for dealing fentanyl, and in 2021, the office prosecuted 223 individuals for a total of 395, according to the District Attorney’s office. Five of those defendants were charged with murder.
Breslow, who appeared on the verge of tears during the plea change hearing, has expressed remorse, according to his attorney.
“He’s extremely remorseful, and I think you’ll see that at the sentencing. He’s been remorseful since day one. Sally was someone that he know very well. They went to high school together. They’ve known each other their entire lives and it’s really a double tragedy for both sides,” Breslow’s attorney Doug Gilliland said.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors took a stand against the fentanyl epidemic on Tuesday by declaring a public health emergency.
Supervisors say it will help the county raise awareness about the issue and secure the necessary resources to fight the drug the CDC claims was the number one killer of people 18 to 45 years old in the U.S. last year – that’s more deaths attributed to fentanyl than COVID, heart disease, gun violence and car accidents.