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Update: Three people found dead in Cortez motel room are identified

Thee adults were found dead Friday morning in a room at the National 9 in Cortez, according to the Cortez Police Department. The deaths are under investigation. No foul play is suspected.
Officials: No foul play suspected; drug use a possible cause

Three people found dead in a Cortez motel room Friday morning have been identified by the Cortez Police Department.

No foul play was suspected, and no physical injuries were found during the initial investigation at the National 9 motel, 301 W. Main St., said Assistant Police Chief Andy Brock.

The three people were identified as Shondella L. Silas, 44, of Towaoc; Tharon F. Grayhair, 40, of White Mesa, Utah.; and Tilden D. Arrates, 27, of Towaoc.

Silas and Arrates were members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, according to Tribal Chairman Manuel Heart.

The causes of death were being investigated Tuesday. Autopsies and toxicology analyses were conducted Monday by the Montezuma County Coroner’s Office. Findings from the autopsies could take two to four weeks.

Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers speculated that drug use was a cause of death. He estimated that the three people died early Friday morning.

Police were called to the motel on a welfare check. Alcohol and suspected opioids, including fentanyl, were found in the room, Brock said. Suspicious activity was reported in the room Thursday evening. No other people are suspected, he said.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, pharmaceutical fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It was developed for pain management of cancer patients.

Counterfeit OxyContin pills laced with fentanyl are showing up in Cortez, according to the Montezuma-Cortez Narcotics Investigation Team.

Brock said the potency of fentanyl makes it especially dangerous. And because the street product is unregulated, users don’t know level of drug concentration per dose.

He said “hot batches” have a higher concentration than the user expects and can cause a fatal overdose.

The Cortez Fire Protection District responded to the hotel to check for carbon monoxide poisoning and ruled it out as a cause of death.