INVERNESS -The Homosassa man accused in the killing of a Brooksville teenager has been found guilty of a lesser offense --- murder in the second degree.
The jury of 5 women and 7 men took three-and-a-half hours to return the verdict in the first-degree murder trial of Byron Lee Boutin, 42, in the slaying of DeAnna Stires, 18. There were two alternates.
Boutin's girlfriend Crystal Brinson, 36, of Brooksville also is facing a first-degree murder charge. Prosecutor Pete Magrino was seeking the death penalty in Boutin's. With a second-degree conviction Boutin still faces the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Florida no longer has parole.
Magrino said he was disappointed by the verdict, but understood the jury's decision.
He said he will now focus on prosecuting Boutin for the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon charge which has been set trial by Judge Ric Howard for Sept. 3.
Magrino hopes the combination of a possible life sentence and a conviction on the firearms charge should keep Boutin behind bars for the rest of his life.
"Where he belongs."
Boutin's attorney Charles Vaughn said he, too, was disappointed by the verdict, but glad his client no longer faces the death penalty.
Vaughn said he and co-counsel Cliff Travis will regroup and make a case for mitigation when Boutin comes for sentencing in about a month.
Boutin and Brisson are accused of overdosing Stires with morphine - the official cause of death - and dumping her corpse in a hunting area in Levy County.
Stires was reported missing on New Year's Day to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. Her body was found Jan. 18 in a wooded area off State Road 24 in the Levy County community of Otter Creek.
Two hunters found Stires' body wrapped in black fabric with her arm hanging out of the wrapping near a dirt road in the hunting area.
The medical examiner characterized her death as "acute morphine intoxication."
The prosecution believes Boutin, and Brinson killed Stires after becoming furious with her for stealing methamphetamines worth about $1,800 from them. They then hatched a plan to dispose of her body.
In his closing remarks, Magrino told the jury during closing arguments that Boutin may not have physically killed Stires, but according to the evidence and Boutin's own account of events leading to the death of the teen, it is clear he was pulling the strings.
"He just let others do his dirty work for him," Magrino said.
Magrino said after Boutin and Brinson picked up Stires on Christmas Eve and took her to his house.
Boutin and Brinson reportedly left the home briefly and returned to find it trashed and Boutin's methamphetamines missing.
Magrino said Boutin became furious and told Brinson to handle it.
In handling it, Brinson reportedly reportedly injected Stires with a lethal dose of morphine and pistol-whipped her before the pair put her in Boutin's Lincoln and transported her to Boutin's father's garage in rural Brooksville.
There, Magrino said, Boutin and Brinson bound Stires' arms behind her back with duck tape and stuffed her mouth with cloth and duck-taped around it. Stires was said to be snoring and sweating, but still alive when Boutin and Brinson left to purportedly get a Brooksville woman to help them deal with a fast deteriorating situation. The couple also turned up the radio volume in the garage purportedly to drown out any sounds she may make if she woke up.
When they returned to the garage, they reportedly found Stires dead and immediately began figuring out a way to dispose of the body.
Magrino said it took Boutin two days of driving around with Stires' body in the car trunk before disposing of it in Levy County.
Then, Magrino said Boutin began an elaborate scheme of trying to mislead law enforcement about his role in the teen's death by telling various accounts.
Magrino reminded jurors that Boutin told his ex-wife Roseanne Pate that "he hurt someone and that it was the most regrettable thing he had ever done. And, if he is caught, he will go to jail for a long time."
Boutin's defense attorney Charles Vaughn told jurors said his client did not intend to harm anyone and in fact did not harm anyone. Vaughn argued that the morphine that killed Stires "was brought the home by Mr. (Bill) Lannert." The defense has always insisted that Lannert of Temple Terrace "is a drug dealer" and brought the morphine to exchange for meeting and having sex with a gay person.
The plan was to have Stires dress like a man to conclude the deal.
Vaughn also told jurors Stires was drug-crazy and desperate for drugs which led her to steal Boutin's drugs and that she also found the morphine pills left by Lannert and consumed them on her own.
"She had quite a cocktail going," Vaughn said. He said Stires toxicology report showed that she had cold medicine, alcohol and ibuprofen in her system, tell-tale signs of her love of drugs.
"Byron did not intend to kill anybody," Vaughn added. He said what happened was an unfortunate chain of events some of which Stires shares the blame for and that it was Brinson who both injected her with the morphine and pistol-whipped her. Lannert testified for the prosecution and denied the defense's allegations.