Superior man faces homicide charge in overdose death


Superior man who allegedly delivered the drugs that led to an overdose death in November will make an initial appearance Thursday in Douglas County Circuit Court, according to the Douglas County District Attorney's Office.

Nathan Edward Birkholz, 23, is facing a charge of repeater first-degree reckless homicide. He was charged in connection with the death of Neil Christianson, 25, who was found in the early morning hours of Nov. 25. An autopsy determined that the cause of his death was heroin and acryl fentanyl toxicity.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic similar to morphine, but it is 50 to 100 times more potent.

Birkholz is accused of delivering a substance that contained heroin and fentanyl to Christianson, and that substance is believed to have caused Christianson's death.

According to the criminal complaint:

Superior Police Investigator Sean Holmgren and Duluth Investigator Matt Nevanen were investing Christianson's death in early December. They received information Birkholz had sold heroin to Christianson that killed him.

Investigators found information the two had exchanged more than 100 pages of private messages through Facebook messenger, including an extended discussion in which Christianson was seeking to buy drugs from Birkholz about six hours before Christianson's death was discovered.

The final messages between the two are listed in the complaint:

"[M]y phone died so I'm on my computer just let me know when you're here," Christianson sent to Birkholz at 9:59 p.m.

"I'll be there in 5. Had to stop at gas station," Birkholz sent at 10:04 p.m.

"I'll be there in 2," Birkholtz sent at 10:08 p.m.

"[O]kie dokie I'll be on my porch waiting," Christianson sent at 10:08.

It was the last message Christianson sent on his Facebook account.

Birkholz is serving a two-year prison sentence for a 2015 conviction for misappropriate ID information. According to online court records, he was initially sentenced to three years of probation. His probation was revoked in May. Birkholz was sentenced in August to two years in prison and two years of extended supervision.

The Superior man was also convicted in 2016 of possession of controlled substance in the fifth degree in Carlton County, Minn., according to the criminal complaint.

According to the Douglas County Jail roster, Birkholz was booked into the jail late Sunday night. He is being held without bail.