Santa Cruz County

Partial Settlement Reached in Santa Cruz Fentanyl Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The family of a 16-year-old teenager who died with fentanyl in her system settled their wrongful death lawsuit against the parents of the man she was with when she died

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The family of 16-year-old Emma Lace Price of Santa Cruz have reached a partial settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit against the man their daughter was with when she died as well as his parents. They have settled their civil lawsuit with Michael Russell’s parents for an undisclosed amount, but their case against Michael Russell is still ongoing.

A newly-released coroner’s report shows Price died in November 2021 from an overdose of fentanyl and a concoction of other drugs, including flualprazolam and cocaine. At the time, the underaged teenager was with 24-year-old Michael J. Russell in his Corralitos home, which is owned by his parents Pricilla Ann Russell and Micheal B. Russell.

Michael J. Russell, also known as Mikey, was never criminally charged in Price’s death. But, earlier this year, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for providing Price and another minor with narcotics and having sex with both teenage girls.

In a yearlong investigation, NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit reported on serious concerns with how law enforcement handled Price's death and the possible impact it had on Russell's criminal prosecution.

Michael J. Russell in court.

Separately, the Price family sued Michael Russell and his parents for wrongful death in civil court.

In the lawsuit, they accuse “Mikey” and his family of delaying medical help that may have saved their daughter’s life. They also accused his parents of knowing their son “had a history of preying on young/underage girls” and that their home “provided a place/opportunity for crimes against underage[d] girls.”

“I think all of us as a family … we just knew we were going to make a big deal,” said Michael Price, Emma Lace Price’s father. “This wasn’t going to be something we were going to be quiet about and go away and not make public ... It was devastating to our community, to our family.”

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit reached out to the Russell’s attorney and his parent’s attorney but have not heard back. In court records, they denied the allegations. The settlement is not an admission of liability.

Since Price’s parents have not agreed to settle with Michael Russell, they can still continue their civil suit against him.

Catch up on the Investigative Unit’s yearlong coverage of this case:

Investigative Reporter Candice Nguyen worked on this story. If you have tip for her about this case or another email

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