SALT LAKE CITY — A Las Vegas man, who as a teenager supplied drugs that killed two 13-year-old Park City classmates in 2016, is now heading to federal prison for a long time after mailing drugs to a Park City man who nearly died from those drugs.

Colin Andrew Shapard, 23, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Sirena Wissler, the lead prosecutor in the case, didn't mince words Friday when asked her thoughts after she was assigned the Shapard case and learned that he was already responsible for the deaths of two young teens.

"In the 10 years that I've been prosecuting cases like this, I think that Mr. Shapard is probably one of the most dangerous individuals that I've ever encountered. He is incredibly bright. He learned how to navigate the dark web to acquire illicit drugs at the age of 15. And even after the deaths of two 13-year-old classmates in 2016, he continued to do that knowing full well what the potential consequences were," she said.

"I have not seen in my career someone with such an incredibly callous disregard for the life of other humans," Wissler said.

In 2016, two 13-year-old Park City boys, Grant Seaver and Ryan Ainsworth — best friends who attended Treasure Mountain Junior High School — both died unexpectedly within 48 hours of each other.

The investigation into the boys' deaths led police to Shapard, who was 15 at the time. He was charged in juvenile court with distribution of a controlled or counterfeit substance, a second-degree felony, and reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor. Court records say Shapard was responsible for ordering drugs off the dark web that he gave to the boys, which caused their deaths. In 2019, he was sentenced to probation and never served any time in detention.

But even after all that, Wissler said the deaths of his classmates weren't enough to deter Shapard.

"Instead, he moved to Nevada where he began acquiring counterfeit oxycodone from the Netherlands and elsewhere. Mr. Shapard marketed these drugs over encrypted apps and assured his customers that they were legitimate oxycodone that he had obtained from Canada. He also went so far as to claim that he tested each batch of pills in order to ensure they did not contain fentanyl. These were lies. Mr. Shapard knowingly exposed his customers to the possibility of death or serious bodily injury," she said.

"I have no doubt that (his) arrest and prosecution saved lives."

In December 2021, investigators seized two shipments of counterfeit M30 pills laced with fentanyl that were mailed from Las Vegas to Utah.

"Simultaneously, Drug Enforcement Administration agents also learned that from December 2021 to May 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized four illicit drug shipments addressed to Shapard from the Netherlands," according to the U.S. attorney for Utah.

Nearly a dozen city, county and federal law enforcers on Friday gathered to announce the formation of the Utah Drug Overdose Task Force, a group dedicated to prosecuting drug dealers who distribute substances "cut" with fentanyl and lead to the death of serious injury of unsuspecting victims. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

Then in 2022, a Park City man suffered a near-fatal overdose after purchasing fentanyl pills mailed to him from Shapard. Shapard was charged for that incident in federal court and pleaded guilty in December to distribution of a controlled substance resulting in serious injury.

U.S. Attorney for Utah Trina Higgins used the Shapard case Friday to announce the formation of the state's first Drug Overdose Task Force. Higgins, along with nearly a dozen city, county and federal law enforcement partners, stood side-by-side to let the public know they will be going after drug dealers who knowingly cut their substances with fentanyl and distribute them to unsuspecting victims, resulting in death of serious injury.

"Right now, fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat we've ever faced in the United States," Higgins said. "This deception increases the likelihood of lethal overdoses. This is the reason it is so dangerous. Not just because of its potency, but because of the deception involved in the distribution."

Because fentanyl is being sold in colorful pill capsules, prosecutors say there is no "typical" victim. People from all walks of life believe they are getting a painkiller and believe taking a pill is safer than using syringes or smoking a drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Victims no longer need a gateway drug to fall into the trap of fentanyl addiction.

"Pills … look safe, especially to kids, especially when they come in a whole bunch of different colors, especially (when they're made) to look like a Bart Simpson head or a Flintstone vitamin. ... They look very safe," said Dustin Gillespie with the Salt Lake City office of the Drug Enforcement Administration. "Gone are the days of needle injections, having tin foil and spoons and lighters. And that barrier of entry is gone, it's eliminated with the introduction of pills, and cartels know that."

Law enforcers say the goals of the new task force are to identify those who distribute drugs that result in death or serious injury, share intelligence with other agencies to try and link cases, give more training to first responders on drug overdose victims, and to increase awareness among the public about the dangers of fentanyl and purchasing pills from illegal sources.

“It is no exaggeration to say one pill can kill,” Wissler said.