Opioid Addiction

Woman ordered jailed after four deaths in her apartment

Marie Panebianco

Marie Panebianco

Broward Sheriff’s Office

A Coral Springs woman arrested in late August for selling synthetic heroin during a drug sting won’t be getting out of jail any time soon. A federal judge this week ordered her to remain behind bars, saying she’s a danger to the community.

The reason: Four people were found dead in her apartment from drug overdoses in the past three years.

“The court further finds by clear and convincing evidence that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the safety of the community if defendant is released before trial,” U.S. Magistrate Alicia O. Valle wrote in an order signed this week.

Marie Panebianco, 35, will remain in Miami’s Federal Detention Center as she awaits trial on charges of distributing drugs. She is also facing state drug trafficking charges in Broward County.

Authorities say she agreed to sell an undercover informant fentanyl and heroin, and later admitted giving drugs to three of the overdose victims before they died. After each of the four deaths, Panebianco called police and made some attempt to clean up the scene, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Her defense lawyer could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Fentanyl and its synthetic variants — which can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin — have decimated communities across Florida and the nation, where a crackdown on prescription painkillers such as oxycodone is believed to have led to the spike in opioid abuse.

State and federal prosecutors have also become more aggressive in charging drug suppliers who give fatal doses to users. In 2017, Florida lawmakers passed a law allowing prosecutors to charge dealers with murder if they provide a fatal dose of fentanyl or drugs mixed with fentanyl.

In September, Broward prosecutors charged a man with first-degree murder after he allegedly sold fentanyl to a Miami woman who died of an overdose. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has charged several similar murder cases.

Panebianco, for now, is not facing any charges related directly to the deaths of the drug users who died in her apartment.

The judge’s order lists the victims who died in her apartment only by their initials. Matching the initials and the dates of death, the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office identified the victims as Jan Chaney, Francis Anthony Uhryna, Jerry Gonzalez and Charles Maskivish. The medical examiner confirmed that all four died of drug overdoses.

Records show that Panebianco has a long history of drug abuse and drug-related arrests.

In February 2017, she called 911 to report that a friend had overdosed in her apartment. When police got there, “they found a fully-clothed woman,” identified as J.C., unresponsive on the floor in the master bedroom. The order says Panebianco told police her friend probably overdosed. Cocaine was found in her system after an autopsy.

Then, just a little over two months later, in April 2017, Panebianco again called 911, this time to report that a man in her apartment had stopped breathing. Police found the man, identified as F.U., lying on his back in the master bedroom.

“The boy had slight rigor mortis, suggesting that defendant had delayed in calling 911,” according to the federal judge’s detention order.

Panebianco admitted to police that the man came to her apartment earlier in the day and that they smoked crack, drank alcohol and took Xanax. She told police that F.U. told her he wanted to kill himself and that she left him alone in bed and found him unresponsive later on. An autopsy confirmed the man had consumed cocaine and two types of fentanyl.

Then in January 2018, investigators said Panebianco called 911 to report another man passed out in her apartment. When police arrived they found J.G. with “full signs” of rigor mortis. Panebianco told police J.G. told her he wasn’t feeling well and went to bed and that more than five hours later she found him “cold and not breathing.” An autopsy found cocaine, heroin and fentanyl in his system.

Finally, in July, Panebianco called 911 once more. This time she offered no explanation. When police got there, they said C.M. was cold to the touch, had a blue tinge on his face and had no pulse.

After the last death, Coral Springs police set up a sting, according to documents filed in state and federal court.

Four times in August, a confidential informant using a recording device bought drugs from Panebianco. According to the documents, she sold crack cocaine and fentanyl in mostly small amounts.

On Aug. 29, Panebianco was arrested on state charges. She posted bond and was released to await trial.

But in early December, a federal grand jury indicted her on drug-selling charges related to the same series of undercover buys.

Miami Herald Staff Writer Jay Weaver contributed to this report.

Chuck Rabin, writing news stories for the Miami Herald for the past three decades, covers cops and crime. Before that he covered the halls of government for Miami-Dade and the city of Miami. He’s covered hurricanes, the 2000 presidential election and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting. On a random note: Long before those assignments, Chuck was pepper-sprayed covering the disturbances in Miami the morning Elián Gonzalez was whisked away by federal authorities.

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