Miami prosecutors are weighing whether to upgrade criminal charges against two men accused of raping a South Beach tourist after an autopsy report revealed that she died, in part, because of fentanyl and alcohol.
According to an autopsy report obtained by the Herald, 24-year-old Christine Englehardt, of Pennsylvania, died from being in a “prone position” while under the influence of alcohol and fentanyl, a drug that may have been given to her by one of the men.
Englehardt was found dead on March 18 inside her room at the Albion Hotel. Miami Beach police later arrested two men, Evoire Collier and Dorian Taylor, of North Carolina, and charged them with sexual battery, burglary with battery, credit card fraud and petty theft.
As of Monday, their charges had not changed. “Homicide charges are being investigated,” said State Attorney’s spokesman Ed Griffith.
Defense lawyers for Collier, 21, declined to comment. Liesbeth Boots, the defense attorney for Taylor, said: “We will vigorously defend Mr. Taylor in court.”
Both men have pleaded not guilty and remain awaiting trial in a Miami-Dade jail.
The story, first reported by the Miami Herald, added to international scrutiny on Miami Beach, which had been swamped by sometimes unruly spring break crowds — some of whom clashed with police — during the COVID-19 pandemic. The crowds led Miami Beach to roll back hours in which alcohol could be served in the city’s famed entertainment district, a move described by a judge as “unlawful.”
Englehardt’s death garnered national headlines. She had traveled to South Beach alone, and had met Collier and Taylor at a restaurant in South Beach.
According to an arrest report, Collier confessed that he and Taylor met the woman at a restaurant and that Taylor gave the girl a “green pill” as they walked on Ocean Drive.
Police said that by the time the two got Englehardt to the Albion Hotel, she could barely stand and Taylor had to hold her up as they got in the elevator. The arrest report said that the men sexually assaulted her in her room even as she fell unconscious, then stole her cellphone and credit cards before leaving.
The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office conducted extensive toxicology tests before pronouncing a cause of death.
According to police, Collier told detectives that he believed the green pill — marked with a “30” — given to Englehardt was Percocet, a powerful pain reliever. Miami Beach police, in arresting Taylor, found green pills in his bag that were made to resemble oxycodone, an opioid pain killer.
But according to Medical Examiner documents, the pills were actually fentanyl, and “consistent” with the drugs detected in Englehardt through the toxicology tests. The fentanyl in her stomach suggested it “was ingested and rapidly fatal,” the toxicoogy report said.
Tests shows Englehardt’s body had traces of cocaine, marijuana and amphetamine, although when or how she ingested those drugs is unclear. The toxicology report said the amounts of those drugs were “very small and carry little significance.”
Her blood alcohol content level, however, was .0197, more than double the legal limit; another reading from fluid taken during the autopsy shows it was .24.
The concentration level of fentanyl was fatal, according to the toxicology report, although the “positional asphyxia, with her face “pressed down” into the bed “cannot be excluded” as having played a role in her death.
The issue of the medical examiner’s report surfaced in Miami-Dade circuit court on Friday, as prosecutors said it would be made available to lawyers preparing their defense of Collier and Taylor. The Medical Examiner’s Office has not ruled on the manner of Englehardt’s death — whether it was considered accidental or a homicide.
Circuit Judge Alberto Milian, in court on Friday, asked whether it was considered a homicide.
“It may be,” Assistant State Attorney Arvind Singh told the judge.
Across the nation, the wide availability of fentanyl and its chemical variants has been blamed on a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction. South Florida, as has the rest of the state, has been hit hard by opioid abuse in recent years.
In 2017, Florida lawmakers passed a law that made it easier to charge someone with murder if they supply a fatal dose of fentanyl or synthetic variants, or a mixture of the drugs with others. Since then, prosecutors across Florida have charged a handful of drug suppliers with first-degree murder.
That includes two Miami-Dade inmates who in 2018 were accused of supplying the fatal fentanyl that killed a fellow inmate at the Miami-Dade County Jail. They are still in jail awaiting trial.