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Fentanyl Awareness


Stories from Travis County Residents Highlight Dangers of Growing Fentanyl Problem

One Pill Can Kill” is not just the name of a national campaign from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to raise awareness of the dangers of fentanyl, it’s also a statement two Austin-area mothers know all too well.

Stefanie Turner and Carilu Bell both lost sons who had consumed counterfeit prescription pills laced with the powerful synthetic opioid drug, so powerful in fact that the DEA reports fentanyl is around 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.

According to Travis County data released in April 2023, there were a total of 245 fentanyl-related accidental overdoses in 2022 among a total of 417 overdoses overall. Meanwhile, the number of fentanyl-related overdoses more than doubled from 2021 to 2022. Currently, fentanyl-related overdose deaths are up 108% in the county.


And, back in May of 2022, fentanyl played a major factor in Travis County declaring a public health crisis over skyrocketing drug overdoses. But why does it keep happening?

Fentanyl-related deaths are occurring because traces of the drug are hidden in tablets sold as popular name-brand drugs like OxyContin, Xanax, and Adderall. Frighteningly, trace amounts of fentanyl can be deadly. Nationally, the DEA reports that six out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

Both mothers have made it their mission to honor their sons’ legacies, raising awareness about these hard truths as teens have continued to lose their lives not just around the Austin area but across the nation. And that’s why they continue to work together through their organization Texas Against Fentanyl (TXAF).

 Tucker's Story

“Tucker and I grew up together…,” Turner said. “It was me and him and his three little sisters because he was my firstborn. And we were really close. I talked to Tucker very openly about life, and him and I just shared a really special bond.”

It was in January 2021 when that deep connection paved the way for the pair to have a pretty tough conversation, mother to son. Tucker was just 18 when he went to a New Year’s Eve party. The next day, he came clean, telling his mom he took a Xanax that made him stop breathing.

“You could tell it kind of freaked him out a little bit,” Turner said. “And he said, ‘Oh, I was fine, Mom.’ I never had a clue that was even a thing that kids were doing. … I didn’t understand that but neither did he, and that’s part of his story that I’m really transparent about because I never would have thought nine months later my son would be dead from fentanyl.”

Pull1Around 2.5 months later, Tucker almost died for the first time.

“I found Tucker in my living room upstairs moments away from death,” she said. “He was taking a little breath every 10 seconds … and he wouldn’t exhale when he would take that little breath, and 10 seconds would go.”

Turner said she was thankful that medics arrived quickly, giving Tucker a life-saving dosage of Narcan before taking him to the hospital, where he then spent two days in the ICU.

“I wish I could tell you that that was the last time he ever used drugs, but it wasn’t,” said his mother.

Tucker later survived a second overdose after taking another pill he thought was Xanax. He then entered a rehabilitation program for a second time.

“When he got out of that rehab, he was doing great. He looked so good. He was healthy…,” said Turner. “And he started training for a triathlon. He was living on his own, working full time and, on the surface, looked great.”

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The night before her son’s passing, she said she walked him to the door. With Tucker’s arm around her, she told him goodnight, that she loved him. And that she was proud of him.

“He said, 'I’ll see you tomorrow,' and he gave me this big smile,” Turner said. “He left my house that night and went and bought two pills off of Instagram.”

Tucker died on September 23, 2021, just two days before he was set to compete in his triathlon.

Seven months after Tucker’s passing, investigators gathered enough evidence to federally prosecute his alleged drug dealer. He was charged with distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death. He remains in custody where he awaits trial. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years to life in prison.

“I look at that, I think to myself, there’s this 20-year-old kid who’s choosing to use drugs and now is facing 20 years to life,” said Turner. “Fentanyl also destroyed his life. It took my son’s life, but it also took much of his life. And my hope and prayer for him is that he fixes his life, but Tucker can’t.”

Casey's Story

Bell lost her son, Casey Dean Copeland of Austin, on August 23, 2021, just one month prior to Tucker’s passing. She joined TXAF after meeting Turner at a local fentanyl awareness event.

She said Casey was “born with orange blood.” He loved football, the Texas Longhorns and was once a student at Lake Travis ISD.

“Lake Travis was his passion…,” said Bell. “As a matter of fact, he got his first job at Lake Travis at a restaurant when he was 14 years old and worked out there ever since. He was a certified personal trainer and worked out fiercely every day. He loved it.”


Always on the water, her son had just returned from a beach trip before he overdosed. She noticed something was wrong the following Monday morning when he wasn’t responding to her text messages or emails, as they both worked in marketing and sales for the same company.

“So I thought, ‘Well, maybe he just decided to stay another day and was out surfing,’” she said.

As the hours ticked by, with key in hand, she decided to go see if Casey was at his condo. She found him dead on his bathroom floor.

Investigators searched Casey’s home, finding no drugs other than a handful of Tylenol. Immediately, she thought her son must have died of natural causes. Eventually, his toxicology report would reveal traces of fentanyl and Valium in his body.

To this day, Casey’s mother doesn’t know exactly how the drugs ended up in his system. But she has some theories, such as her son buying the Valium off a friend on social media, like Tucker did, to help Casey get some sleep at night.

“Casey journaled everything. I have six years of his journals, where every day he would write in them everything he did – if he ran 30 miles, if he bicycled 10 miles or did 100 sit-ups, whatever – he put that in his journal daily,” Bell said.

And on that Monday when she found him, all he had written down was “make doctor’s appointment.”

“I just firmly believe that he was seeking something to help him sleep, to get a good night’s rest, and had every intention to get treatment for his depression,” said Casey’s mother.

Pull2Since that fateful Monday, Bell has not been the same optimistic mother figure that she was before.

“I try. Daily I go about my business, and I try to be the happy-go-lucky girl that I always was, but some days I’m not so successful at it,” she said.

While some days are better than others, both women have been successful in other ways. With the help of TXAF and other parents around Texas, their stories have been shared across the nation. And now, in 2023, a bill titled “Tucker’s Law,” which would require more fentanyl education in Texas schools, is making its way through the 88th Legislative Session.

“[Parents] need to know what their children are doing, know who their children are talking with,” said Bell. “ ... There are a lot of good kids that took a pill for the first time, that experimented like we all have growing up … parents, please educate yourself and don’t wait until it affects you personally.”

How TCSO is Fighting Fentanyl

At TCSO, we remain dedicated to doing our part to help stop the fentanyl crisis and we continue working with local school districts and community influencers to educate the general public, parents, and students.

In addition to working with Texas Against Fentanyl and other organizations, our Patrol Deputies are all equipped with Narcan in their vehicles so they may respond immediately to people in crisis.

Our agency also produced a video with a prominent local cardiologist that educates people in custody in the Travis County Jail and Correctional Complex about the dangers of fentanyl, such as how it affects the body, why it’s so deadly, and why it’s so addictive.

Meanwhile, our jail’s medical staff uses standard medical protocols to treat inmates going through withdrawal while in custody. Our jail also provides substance education services. Additionally, we work to connect inmates who are in the process of being released from custody with community resources to continue their care. Narcan is provided to anyone who wants it upon release.


If you’d like to submit a tip regarding illegal fentanyl sales or other crimes involving narcotics, reach out to TCSO’s Criminal Investigation’s Division (CID) at 512-854-1444 or VICE Unit at 512-854-7425.

If you have an emergency, please dial 911. If your situation is not an emergency but requires an immediate response from our Patrol Division, please call TCSO Non-Emergency Dispatch at 512-974-0845, Option 3. 

Meanwhile, check out the links below for more information:

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