A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday for a former Cathedral City police officer accused of assaulting and harassing a former girlfriend, as well as swiping fentanyl and ingesting it following a drug raid.
Claudiu Murzea, 46, of Rancho Cucamonga is charged with making criminal threats, battery on a domestic partner, violating a protective order, destroying evidence and possession of controlled substances.
During a status hearing Wednesday, Murzea’s attorney indicated she was prepared to move forward with the preliminary hearing in the domestic abuse case. The hearing, if it goes forward, would determine whether there’s sufficient evidence to warrant a trial.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Gerard set the matter for Thursday morning at the Riverside Hall of Justice. A trial-setting conference is scheduled at the same time in the drug case.
Murzea is being held in lieu of $1 million at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.
Murzea was taken into custody on the domestic violence-related charges on Oct. 4. He had been free on a $5,000 bond, awaiting disposition of the drug case, prior to the most recent arrest.
According to a criminal complaint, during the first week of October, Murzea allegedly threatened the woman, identified in court documents only as “M.M.,” and perpetrated an unspecified assault on her, violating a domestic violence restraining order in the process.
“The victim is terrified as Murzea has guns registered to him (and) is a trained former police officer from Cathedral City,” according to a bail-setting request filed by the sheriff’s department. “He was terminated due to drug offenses and has since made credible criminal threats to the Riverside County D.A.’s office, Cathedral City PD and a (law enforcement) officer.”
The document, filed by Detective Christi Arnold, alleged the defendant has been “demonstrating erratic behavior, based on emails and voicemails.”
Murzea was first arrested and charged in connection with the drug case last November. According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed by the sheriff’s department, on May 11, 2022, the defendant and other law enforcement personnel conducted a probation sweep in which a hotel room where a felon and another party were staying was searched.
The detainees, whose names were not disclosed, were taken outside of the room, where Murzea was assigned to watch them, the affidavit stated.
“Officers searched the room and located fentanyl pills, powdered fentanyl, methamphetamine and a firearm,” the document said.
It was later discovered that one of the parties removed from the hotel room had “drugs in his pocket at the time he was detained,” but there was no record of those substances being booked into evidence, according to the affidavit.
Roughly two hours later, “Claudiu was located unconscious, suffering from a drug overdose behind the Cathedral City Police Department,” the narrative said.
Murzea was taken to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, where a nurse allegedly discovered fentanyl in his wallet.
“A toxicology test revealed fentanyl, as well as additional drugs, were in Claudiu’s blood,” the sheriff’s department said.
Murzea recovered and was later fired from the police department.
The drug charges are misdemeanors.
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