Murder charges filed against parents of teen who overdosed on fentanyl, xylazine near Richmond

If convicted of murder, both could spend the rest of their lives in prison, judge says

Eric Ullrich, left, and Cara Ullrich have both been arrested in connection to a 14-year-old boy's death in Richmond.

The parents of a Richmond-area teen who fatally overdosed on fentanyl and xylazine now are charged with first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, according to McHenry County jail records.

Eric Ullrich, 51, and Cara Ullrich, 45, still each face charges of possession of a controlled substance and endangering the life or health of a minor, filed after their son Trent Ullrich, 14, died Jan. 3.

Eric Ullrich was taken back into custody Thursday in the McHenry County jail after a grand jury indicted him on the new charges, the jail log shows.

Eric Ullrich also is charged with obstructing justice. If convicted of murder, both he and Cara could spend the rest of their lives in prison, Judge Michael Chmiel said at their detention hearing Friday.

Cara Ullrich was sentenced last month to four years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for violating probation in an unrelated 2021 case in which she is accused of slashing the stomach of a relative with a knife. She remains in the McHenry County jail, according to county records.

According to the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, the Richmond Township Fire Protection District was called at 10:50 a.m. Jan. 3 to Eric Ullrich’s home in the 9600 block of Hillandale Lane for a report of a person experiencing “difficulty breathing.”

Trent Ullrich was pronounced dead in Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital’s emergency room later that day. Police found heroin, fentanyl and cocaine throughout the house owned by Eric Ullrich, authorities said.

As paramedics worked to save her son’s life, Cara Ullrich hid in a bathtub until police found her. She gave police a false name before attempting to flee. She was arrested on outstanding warrants.

A 13-year-old child also was in the home at the time, according to officials records. The McHenry County coroner determined that Trent Ullrich died from the effects of fentanyl and xylazine, a dangerous, non-opioid animal tranquilizer that began showing up in McHenry County overdose deaths in 2020.

Eric and Cara Ullrich, who are divorced, appeared at a detention hearing Friday afternoon, during which Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Romito detailed the alleged events on the day the child died. She separately addressed Eric and Cara Ullrich, who are charged together in a 19-count indictment, although Romito outlined near-identical allegations in the case.

The prosecutor said Eric Ullrich initially lied to police when he told them that his son said about 1 a.m. Jan. 3 that he did not feel well, so Eric told him to take a shower, after which he walked downstairs naked and fell asleep on the couch in the family room.

Romito said Eric Ullrich had told police that when he woke up about 11 a.m., his son still was on the couch, cold and unconscious, prompting Ullrich to call 911.

He said he did not know what happened and that he did not know his son to use illicit drugs, the prosecutor said.

In fact, authorities said police later would learn that the ordeal began the night before. That night, Cara Ullrich bought two bags of fentanyl and heroin and brought it to her ex-husband’s house, the prosecutor alleged in court.

Cara and Eric Ullrich later argued because she said she could not find her drugs, and Cara Ullrich noticed that her son was in his bed and unresponsive, Romito said, adding that a small bag containing a grayish powdery substance was found on the floor next to his bed.

Romito said the couple put Trent, who could not walk or stand on his own, in the shower, and they had to sit him in the shower and put a rolled-up sheet behind his head.

At that point, the couple believed he could be under the influence of drugs but did not call 911 because Cara Ullrich was afraid of going to jail, Romito contended.

“They put him in the shower after realizing he took their drugs instead of calling 911,” said Romito, who added that there were “several” previous investigations into the family by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Romito said Eric Ullrich, who had been released pending trial on the earlier, lesser charges, already had violated the conditions of that release.

He has not reported to court services, and he has tested positive for alcohol, she said.

Assistant Public Defender Michael Zasadil, who represented both Ullrichs at Friday’s hearing, said Cara Ullrich “vehemently denies the charges. ... Just because her drugs were missing, that doesn’t correlate with what was in his system.”

Regarding Eric Ullrich, the public defender said: “He is cloaked in presumption of innocence.”

Eric Ullrich tried to resuscitate Trent, called 911 and had checked his blood pressure, which was normal, Zasadil said, asking for house arrest for Eric Ullrich and adding that he had no indication that Trent took Cara Ullrich’s missing drugs.

But Romito also asserted that as the teen lay unresponsive on the couch, Cara Ullrich made phone calls to two separate people who, during a police interview, she said she told that her drugs were missing and she thought her son took them.

One call was made at 11:26 p.m. Jan. 2, and the second was made at 1:17 a.m. Jan. 3.

“I think [Trent] got into my [expletive],” one witness reported Cara Ullrich saying, according to Romito. “He is laying on the couch all [expletive] up.”

Both witnesses told police that they told her to call 911, Romito said, adding that Cara Ullrich did not call for help because “she was scared she would get arrested.”

Eric Ullrich also did not call for help, Romito said.

The prosecutor said another teen who was in the home, a 13-year-old boy, told police that he heard his parents arguing about what to do, saying they could not call police.

He heard his mother yell that they needed to put him in the shower “right now. ... He won’t wake up,” Romito said.

The couple then fell asleep, and the 13-year-old said he was “concerned when they passed out and didn’t call for help knowing [Trent] likely” ingested heroin and fentanyl, Romito said, adding that the younger child woke up about 11 a.m. to his father trying to resuscitate Trent.

When police arrived at 11:23 a.m., Trent was cold to the touch and stiffening, with fluid coming from his mouth, Romito said.

The prosecutor said police found a plastic baggie in the master bedroom containing a grayish powdery substance and an identical one in Trent’s closet each containing fentanyl. Another baggie found near Trent’s bed tested positive for heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, Romito said.

First responders also saw on the kitchen counter a container of used naloxone, which is used to reverse the fatal effects of heroin, the prosecutor said. That container was found later, seemingly hidden behind a loaf of bread and paper towels as if the couple tried to conceal it.

The couple denied using naloxone on their son, Romito said.

In the master bedroom, police also found more baggies of illicit drugs, vials, clear plastic pipes and a scale coated with a white residue later testing positive for cocaine, the assistant state’s attorney said.

Authorities also found empty alcohol bottles and marijuana in a bedroom and a marijuana-growing station in the basement near a gaming console.

Romito said authorities also found photographs of the boys and Eric and Cara Ullrich holding bags of marijuana as if they were given to the children for Christmas. Another photograph depicted the younger boy grinding marijuana, the prosecutor said.

Romito asserted that Eric Ullrich lied to police when he said that only he and the two boys were in the house. When authorities entered the master bedroom, which Eric Ullrich said was a storage room, they found Cara Ullrich curled up in the bathtub, the prosecutor said.

Chmiel ordered that both Ullrichs be detained. The judge said that what he heard was “extremely and extraordinarily concerning.”