A Dubuque man who sold a fatal opioid cocktail was sentenced this week to 20 years in federal prison.

Carl R. Watkins, 30, previously pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to one count of distribution of controlled substances resulting in death. The 20-year term was the minimum sentence he could have received, as he faced up to life behind bars. There is no parole in the federal system. 

He must also serve three years of supervised release after prison and pay $7,233 in restitution to the victim’s family for funeral expenses. 

State and federal court documents indicate that authorities found Cayla Jo Mutert, 26, dead inside 3708 Pennsylvania Ave., Apt. F53, on the night of Aug. 5 of “an apparent drug overdose.”


In federal court, Watkins admitted that Mutert texted him on that day, looking for heroin, according to a press release. He sold her “what was supposedly heroin.” She fatally overdosed when she took the drugs later that night.

“An autopsy determined that the woman’s death was caused by mixed drug toxicity, specifically from fentanyl and an analogue of fentanyl called acetyl fentanyl,” the release states. “During a search of the woman’s bedroom, officers found a chunky white substance that tested positive for fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl.”

On Aug. 6, investigators used Mutert’s phone to set up another drug deal with Watkins. When Watkins approached the investigators’ vehicle, he was arrested.

“During his arrest, Watkins dropped a baggie containing about a quarter gram of fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl,” the release states.

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