BEVERLY — When Miguel Castillo-Moya got the text message from the phone number of a past customer looking for “four brown and three white” — street slang for heroin and cocaine — the only thing he appeared concerned about was traffic, police say. 

That changed when his phone rang shortly after he arrived at the 32 Broadway rooming house and he realized the woman on the other end of the call was a Beverly police detective. Castillo-Moya knew he was in big trouble. He yelled “Oh (expletive)!” and tried to flee, police say. 

He learned how much trouble he was in during his appearance in Salem District Court Friday. That’s when a prosecutor said Castillo-Moya is being eyed as the source of the heroin that killed a woman living at 32 Broadway last week — the same woman he allegedly thought wanted more drugs. 

Castillo-Moya, 26, of Lawrence, is being held on $100,000 cash bail on charges of possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to distribute, as well as driving after license suspension, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. His bail in a pending heroin distribution case in Peabody was also revoked. Castillo-Moya suffered a broken arm after trying to flee by jumping over a porch railing.

If police, who are still investigating, can link him to the heroin that killed the woman, he could face a manslaughter charge. 

Isabel Ortega, 50, of Roxbury, who was in the car with Castillo-Moya, is also charged with possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to distribute, as well as giving a false name to police. She is also being held on $100,000 bail. 

Another overdose victim

The investigation, which involved Beverly police detectives and state police, started with the discovery of the body of a 34-year-old woman inside an apartment in the rooming house on Tuesday. 

Investigators looking at the dead woman’s phone saw a text message about the purchase of heroin and cocaine. That message came from “Mannuel” on March 6. Investigators say that her last contact with anyone was the following day, and believe that is when she overdosed and died. 

Trooper Steven Gondella of the state police Central Narcotics Task Force and Beverly police detective Dana Nicholson decided to launch a joint investigation to identify “Mannuel.” 

On Thursday, Gondella used the victim’s phone to contact the dealer and arrange for the purchase of four grams of heroin and three grams of cocaine. 

The dealer, later identified as Castillo-Moya, arranged to meet his customer at her apartment at around 5 p.m. 

He later called to say he was concerned about traffic and would arrive later. The person pretending to be the customer was actually Beverly police detective Darlene Prinz. 

The two spoke on the phone again as he was arriving. 

Gondella, dressed in plainclothes, opened the door to the lobby. He was talking to Castillo-Moya when Prinz, sitting on the stairs to the second floor, called him again. 

That’s when Castillo-Moya tried to flee, police say. He made it over a railing but was being held by Gondella and Nicholson, police said. With his free hand, the detective said in his report, Castillo-Moya appeared to be stuffing items into his mouth — what police suspect were the drugs he was about to sell. 

Castillo-Moya then fell a couple of feet to the ground, jumped off a retaining wall into a snowbank, lost his sneakers, then fled into the street, where he lost his balance and fell over backward, breaking his arm. Gondella suffered a knee injury as he pursued the suspect, who continued to struggle until he was sprayed with pepper spray. Two Beverly detectives also reported injuries during the struggle. 

Meanwhile, a passenger in the Nissan appeared to be swallowing items and gulping water. 

She initially gave police the name “Migdalia Garcia.” It turns out that there was a warrant for “Garcia,” so she was arrested. 

At the police station, Prinz found that “Garcia” was carrying a Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance card with her photo but the name “Fladis Pepin-Reynoso.” Police were still skeptical, and then found a third name, Isabel Ortega, who was wanted on warrants in connection with drug trafficking, police said. Later, a fourth possible alias, Maria Sanchez, was found.

Suspect was out on bail 

Castillo-Moya was arrested in Peabody in 2013 during a joint investigation by federal and local police on drug distribution charges. His original $75,000 bail in that case was later reduced to $10,000 by Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley. 

Prosecutor Patrick Collins said Castillo-Moya “went right back into business delivering heroin and cocaine to customers, one of whom is now dead.” 

“These people were in the business of dealing heroin,” said Collins. “It’s that simple.” 

Lawyers for the two quickly pointed out that police found only two small bags, one containing half a gram of cocaine and the other containing half a gram of a substance that may be a small amount of heroin cut with Fentanyl — and that it was found in the snowbank, not on either suspect. 

“I don’t even think there’s probable cause for the charges,” said Castillo-Moya’s longtime lawyer, Ray Buso. 

Buso went on to say his client claims he was actually pushed off the porch by police. 

Kevin Prendergast, who represented Ortega, said the charges against her are based on “wild speculation.” 

“She wasn’t trying to swallow anything,” said Prendergast. 

Both are due back in court on April 7.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.

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