Texting led to arrests in drug death

2 face charges in overdose of Wauwatosa woman

Dec. 6, 2011

It was a string of text messages that first led Wauwatosa police on the track of two alleged drug dealers who have since been charged in the heroin overdose death of a 19-year-old Wauwatosa woman, court records reveal.

Alexandra Hopping was found dead at her mother's home in the 1800 block of N. 70th St. in Wauwatosa on April 18, just five days before her 20th birthday, according to an affidavit accompanying a search warrant. On a coffee table in the living room next to her body, police found two metal spoons, a cigarette lighter, a syringe with heroin and oxycodone, two corner-cut plastic bags with heroin and two empty plastic bags.

Police also recovered Hopping's cellphone. It indicated that just hours before her death, Hopping had purchased $100 worth of high-quality heroin from a drug dealer on Milwaukee's north side through a middleman in Waukesha. Police believe she may have known the alleged middleman, Daniel Lee Birtic, 23, from her time at Waukesha West High School, where her parents said she started using narcotics before she graduated in 2009.

It was clear from the text messages that Birtic was aware the heroin was powerful.

"I hope you dont od. That happens alot with this stuff. And people always think it wont happen to them," Birtic warned Hopping in a text message the afternoon of April 17, hours before she died, according to the affidavit.

"I was gonna test it out with one if it's that good maybe I'll try half first," Hopping replied.

Shortly after, another man, who has not been charged, gave Birtic, Hopping and a third person a ride to pick up the drugs from Edwin Esteves, according to court records.

A few hours later, at 6:41 p.m., she texted a friend from her home in Wauwatosa and offered him some of her heroin.

The friend declined.

Hopping's stepfather found her dead the next morning after she failed to show up for her first day at work at Outpost Natural Foods. He knew she'd been flirting with drugs for at least a year and a half, but she'd gone through rehab three times, and her family, who subjected her to regular drug tests, believes she had been clean for six months.

Through the text messages and surveillance, Waukesha police determined that Birtic received the drugs from Esteves, 33.

Police arrested Birtic, Esteves and Esteves' girlfriend in late September after they conducted another drug deal in a Walgreens parking lot, the affidavit shows. At the time of the arrest, the girlfriend had 33 plastic bags of heroin in her mouth.

When police checked the home of Esteves and his girlfriend in the 2400 block of N. 29th St. in Milwaukee, they found four children, ages 4, 5, 10 and 11, home alone. In plain view, officers also found a marijuana joint, four firearms, three handguns with ammunition, 19 grams of heroin and a suspected marijuana grow operation with five plants in the front closet, according to court records.

Birtic and Esteves were charged Oct. 11 with first-degree reckless homicide under the Len Bias law and are scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 15. Esteves is being held in the Milwaukee County on $275,000 bail and Birtic on $157,500 bail. Both also have been charged with possession of heroin with intent to sell.

If convicted, the men face 80 years in prison each.

Hopping's family has said they hope her death will serve as a warning to other parents to keep close track of their children's whereabouts.

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