GOODYEAR, Ariz.—Mitch and Josephine Dunn of Arizona believe their beautiful daughter, Ashley Marie, didn’t just die of an overdose on May 26, 2021.
They say she was murdered.
And the lethal weapon that took her 26-year-old life was fentanyl.
“She was poisoned,” said Josephine, the anger in her voice building. “These drug dealers are no longer drug dealers. They’re serial killers.”
“Our daughter smoked half a pill—enough to kill two-and-a-half people. Our grandson no longer has a mother,” she said.
And the Dunns aren’t alone in their grief.
Renee Wright of Arizona said she feels she’s just as much a victim of the fentanyl plague as her young daughter.
As the mother of a fentanyl addict, Wright said she knows her daughter is still out there, living dangerously on the streets in Arizona, though “day-to-day I don’t know if she’s going to be alive or dead.”
Addressing the Dunns, she said, “Our hearts are connected. We’re in a club nobody wants to be in”—a club of victims that keeps growing.
On March 14, the two families participated in a roundtable discussion on the killer fentanyl crisis. The event was held in Goodyear, Arizona, and sponsored by U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar, (R-Arizona).
The purpose of the roundtable was to draw attention to the severity of the fentanyl crisis, which in 2021 killed 105,000 Americans along with other opiate-related overdoses. Close to 1 million people have died since 2014 with the exponential rise in illegal fentanyl imports from China through Mexico.
“It’s cascading across the country. I don’t think Americans understand how much this epidemic is costing them,” Gosar said.
Once a “miracle drug” used to treat severe pain, “it works very well for what it’s intended for,” said Gosar’s chief of staff and roundtable moderator, Thomas van Flein. “Today, it’s been adulterated and counterfeited” for recreational use—fatal even in small amounts, he said.
The drug is mostly made in China and then processed and smuggled into the United States by Mexican drug cartels, according to the panel. But the problem goes even deeper—to the social, cultural, and spiritual heart of America.
The border crisis is but a leading cause of the present fentanyl crisis.
Congress has “kicked the can down the road” far too long, said Gosar, who called on lawmakers to take immediate action to address the fentanyl epidemic.
“You have to be held accountable for what you’re doing. Death is a violent act, regardless of how it’s done,” he said.
“These are not overdoses—these are poisonings,” added Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, a panel speaker.
Panel speaker Kari Lake, a Republican candidate for Arizona governor, said fentanyl imports can be traced directly to the open border policy of President Joe Biden and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“We have to act aggressively. We’re also fighting the CCP,” said Lake. “It’s killing Americans, and it’s killing Arizonans.”
Lake is lobbying for her program “Defend Arizona,” which declares a migrant invasion of the state through Mexico is underway.
“You’re going to see the problem increase even more and it’s not right,” Lake said. “We’re going up against the cartels. These guys are monsters.”
“You have no idea what is coming into this country,” Lamb said. “What better way to undermine [the rule of law] than by drugging Americans?”
Other panel speakers included Police Chief Larry Hall of Buckeye, Arizona; Sheriff Doug Schuster of Mohave County, Arizona; Thomas Sauer, president and founding director of the MacArthur Group, a behavioral healthcare firm focused on mental health and addiction treatment for veterans; Larry Tracey, executive director of Youth4Youth, and Dawn Mertz, director of Arizona High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), established in 1990 to facilitate collaborative drug control efforts with law enforcement and community-based agencies.
In addition to closing the border with Mexico, the roundtable discussed the need for an aggressive law enforcement response including legislative efforts and community approaches to battle fentanyl and other illegal drugs.
Hall, however, cautioned that law enforcement is only one part of that solution.
“We’re not going to be able to arrest ourselves out of this at all. The enforcement side is just one part of the problem and it’s getting a lot harder—and that’s the problem. We have to be creative,” he said.
“What is stopping us is the federal government,” Lamb said. “Our system is broken, folks.”
Schuster added, “We can’t forget the big picture. We need reform in this state. We can’t put everybody in jail.”
Lake said that when Americans go to the polls in 2022, “We have to vote like our lives depend on it.”
“We’ve got to go full bore against these narco-terrorists,” said Lake, who sees a “God-size hole” in America that needs to be filled.