Central Coast man found guilty in fentanyl death

March 3, 2024

Kaelen Jacobkeali Wendel


A jury found a Central Coast man guilty on Friday of aiding and abetting the distribution of fentanyl that resulted in the death of a fellow inmate at a Santa Barbara County jail and in the serious bodily injury of another jail inmate. Kaelen Jacobkeali Wendel, 32, is facing a 20-year mandatory minimum prison sentence and a possible sentence of life in prison.

In Oct. 2022, Wendel smuggled fentanyl packaged in candy containers into a unit of the Santa Barbara County North Branch Jail.

Wendel traded fentanyl to Michael Villapania, 36, for commissary goods. Villapania then sold the drug to a victim identified in court documents as “J.V.” J.V. then shared the fentanyl with another victim, who is identified in court documents as “E.E.”

After ingesting the drug, E.E. and J.V. overdosed. After an inmate alerted a custody deputy about the overdose, deputies and nurses administered multiple doses of Narcan – a life-saving medication used to reverse opioid overdoses – and performed CPR on both inmates. They revived J.V., but E.E. died.

Villapania pleaded guilty on Feb. 1 to one count of distribution of fentanyl. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison.



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Correction: I mis-labeled the culprits in this case. Kaelen Wendel is the responsible party for smuggling fentanyl into S.B. Co. North Branch Jail.

What a joke! Villapania pleads guilty to a single count of distribution of fentanyl. Is he a doctor or pharmacist? Was he in charge of the jail infirmary? No. Distributing drugs is nowhere in his job description as an incarcerated recidivist criminal. Now, he is a murderer who, conveniently for him, is not being held responsible for murder/manslaughter or for smuggling lethal contraband, for that matter. Smuggling into what should be the most secure, restricted and contraband-free facilities in the country. Just a single count for “distribution”! No charges for smuggling, endangerment, or murder/manslaughter. Not even a charge for conducting business transactions within a penal facility without a business permit, LOL! (We require people to obtain permits and licenses to conduct business in the outside real world, why not in jails & prisons? Jails should be more laissez-faire and less regulated?)

If the charges and consequences are minimized for egregious drug violations inside a highly secure & monitored penal facility, I can only assume they would be even more lax if the same criminal behavior was conducted in the “outside free world”. We are guaranteeing evermore drug use/addiction/carnage/death in society if we are equally as lax and apathetic about the drug culture inside our incarceration facilities as we are outside. Villapania should have been convicted of smuggling and murder/manslaughter in addition to his distribution charge.

His first mistake was being a NY Met’s fan.

According to a former Deputy Sheriff in Alameda County, there are more illegal drugs in the Alameda County Jail than on the street. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Santa Barbara County Jail was the same.

The reason why: It’s Alameda County! Bluer than the deep blue sea.

i thought Juan Soto played for the Yankees.