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Fentanyl suspected in death of 16-year-old El Cajon girl

Fentanyl suspected in death of 16-year-old El Cajon girl
Posted at 5:15 PM, Nov 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-23 20:41:26-05

LA MESA, Calif. (KGTV) - An East County father is searching for justice after his 16-year-old daughter was discovered dead from a suspected fentanyl overdose.

On a morning in late February, Cassidy Hopwood, 16, walked out of her grandma's home in El Cajon and disappeared.

“She had the kindest heart, the sweetest smile. She was free-spirited, could go up and brighten the sun's day,” said Cassidy's father, Garren Hopwood.

“It was so scary, thinking of all the things that could be going on."

Loved ones filed a missing person report with El Cajon Police, and searched for Cassidy, who had run away last year for a week.

Weeks after Cassidy disappeared, her body was found behind a shopping center in the 7900 block of El Cajon Boulevard. La Mesa Police say there was nothing identifying near her, so she remained unidentified, in the morgue.

Some eight months later, Hopwood says authorities asked for dental records. Soon after, the Medical Examiner's Office called loved ones and confirmed that Cassidy had died.

“I couldn't stop crying. Part of me is gone. It’s the worst feeling you can imagine, something a parent should never have to go through,” said Hopwood.

Hopwood says La Mesa Police spoke to him about the delay in identifying her.

“They were very apologetic. They said there were steps that should have been taken that maybe weren’t,” said Hopwood.

As for the cause of Cassidy's death, he learned this from the Medical Examiner’s Office.

“There was paraphernalia found at the scene, and that it was a fentanyl overdose,” said Hopwood.

Hopwood said in the past few years, drug paraphernalia had been found in Cassidy's room. He brought her to a treatment program last year, but Cassidy refused to stay.

"She says, ‘No, I don't want to go,’ and the lady said that we can't force them,” said Hopwood.

More than a year later, Cassidy, who attended Diego Valley East Public Charter School in El Cajon, would die from an apparent overdose.

Police and Hopwood are now searching for the person who supplied the fentanyl.

“They knew the risk they were putting her in, and I think they need to be held accountable. If this person doesn’t stop, more people are going to die,” said Hopwood,

A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help the Hopwood family with funeral and other expenses.

La Mesa Police issued the following statement:

At the time the body was found, we were unable to identify her. The San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office began the process of identification and worked that part of the investigation…We received notice from the Medical Examiner’s Office on November 11th with the identity.
La Mesa Police Department

La Mesa Police Detectives would like to speak with anyone who has any information on the circumstances surrounding Cassidy’s death, including anyone who might have seen her in the area of 7900 El Cajon Boulevard between the end of February and March 13th. This remains an ongoing investigation.

Any tips can be directed to the La Mesa Police Department’s Investigations Unit (619-667-1400) or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-TIPS (or []). Anyone who contacts Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous, and be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest in this case.”