Friday, Apr 18, 2014
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Medical examiner: Brooksville teen died of drug overdose


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Slain Brooksville teen DeAnna Lee Stires' mother wept and her father hung his head, refusing to view graphic images of their child's partially decomposed corpse as the prosecution opened its case against the first of two of her alleged killers.

Prosecutor Pete Magrino is seeking the death penalty against Byron Lee Boutin, who is charged with first-degree murder in Stires' slaying during Christmas in 2012.

Magrino also told the 12-person jury, with one alternate, he intended to show through Boutin's inconsistent statements to investigators and actions that he in fact did commit the murder with his girlfriend, Crystal Michelle Brinson. Brinson, 36, also is facing first-degree murder charges in the case.

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.

Tuesday in Judge Ric Howard's courtroom, the prosecution called 10 witnesses to the stand, including the associate medical examiner of the Eighth Circuit, Martha Burt, who testified that Stires died from "acute morphine intoxication," and that her manner of death was homicide.

Boutin's defense team of Charles Vaughn and Clifford Travis laid out in their opening statements a version of events that portrayed Stires as a drug-addled and party-seeking teenager who accidentally died while Boutin, 42, and Brinson were trying to calm her after she became combative and disruptive after ingesting methamphetamines and a host of other drugs.

Through the witnesses called on the first day of trial, Magrino sought to build the case that Boutin planned Stires' death and tried to cover it up by disposing of the young woman's body in secluded hunting area in Levy County, telling investigators different versions of events each time they interrogated him. Two hunters found Stires' body near a dirt road almost a month after she went missing, shrouded in black fabric with her arm sticking out.

Levy County Sheriff's Office Crime Scene Investigator Deputy Danette Griffith testified that Stires' body seemed like it was moved from its original dump site to where it was found, perhaps by animals. That revelation proved too much for Stires' mother Melba Nephew, who started weeping and left the courtroom. Stires' father, Barry Stires, kept his head down throughout the airing of the body recovery video shot by Levy investigators. Stires' parents and sister stayed out of the courtroom as the medical examiner shared her findings with the court.

Detectives James Merritt of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office and John Ellis of Hernando County Sheriff's Office both testified that when they visited Boutin in early January at his home in Homosassa regarding the then-missing 18-year-old Stires, he told them he saw her on Christmas, but that she left his residence with some male named either Mark or Mike Jones. Boutin also said he hadn't seen her since.

However, Ellis testified when he talked to Boutin again a few days later he left out the part about Stires leaving his residence with a man named Jones. He denied saying she left with someone else.

Boutin's ex-wife Roseanne Pate, who lives in Missouri, testified she got a call from a very upset Boutin in mid-January saying he hurt someone and may be put away for a long time. He even asked if he could move in with her to get away from Florida.

By the end of January, according to prosecutor Magrino, Boutin switched his story again, this time acknowledging that he and Brinson did pick up Stires from the Lady Lake area and used methamphetamine with her.

Boutin told investigators he and Brinson had briefly left Stires at his place to go get a picture frame, but returned to a house ransacked by an agitated Stires.

Boutin and Brinson reportedly also argued with Stires over missing methamphetamine, which they believed Stires stole.

Boutin said Stires' rage involved pulling Boutin's belongings out of cabinets, and while trying to subdue Stires, Brinson administered a "hot shot," or morphine. That morphine, said prosecution witness Burt, proved fatal. According to Burt, an average elderly cancer patient can only withstand between 300 and 500 mg/ml of morphine. Stires' morphine level at autopsy was 2,500 mg/ml.

She also had a blood alcohol level of 0.07. A blood alcohol level of 0.08 is considered drunk for driving purposes. Stires toxicology report also indicated she had cold medicine and ibuprofen in her system.

Defense attorney Vaughn said the toxicology showed Stires was hooked on drugs and booze and, therefore, prone to fits of anger.

Vaughn argued that Boutin and Brinson gave Stires the shot of morphine to calm her down and they took her to Boutin's father's barn in Brooksville and restrained her, but in a very comfortable manner. However, when Boutin and Brinson left the barn and returned later to check on her they found her cold and dead.

Vaughn said Boutin made inconsistent statements to authorities because he was unaware of the nuances of the law.

Prosecutor Pete Magrino is seeking the death penalty against Byron Lee Boutin, who is charged with first-degree murder in Stires' slaying during Christmas in 2012.

Magrino also told the 12-person jury, with one alternate, he intended to show through Boutin's inconsistent statements to investigators and actions that he in fact did commit the murder with his girlfriend, Crystal Michelle Brinson. Brinson, 36, also is facing first-degree murder charges in the case.

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.

Tuesday in Judge Ric Howard's courtroom, the prosecution called 10 witnesses to the stand, including the associate medical examiner of the Eighth Circuit, Martha Burt, who testified that Stires died from "acute morphine intoxication," and that her manner of death was homicide.

Boutin's defense team of Charles Vaughn and Clifford Travis laid out in their opening statements a version of events that portrayed Stires as a drug-addled and party-seeking teenager who accidentally died while Boutin, 42, and Brinson were trying to calm her after she became combative and disruptive after ingesting methamphetamines and a host of other drugs.

Through the witnesses called on the first day of trial, Magrino sought to build the case that Boutin planned Stires' death and tried to cover it up by disposing of the young woman's body in secluded hunting area in Levy County, telling investigators different versions of events each time they interrogated him. Two hunters found Stires' body near a dirt road almost a month after she went missing, shrouded in black fabric with her arm sticking out.

Levy County Sheriff's Office Crime Scene Investigator Deputy Danette Griffith testified that Stires' body seemed like it was moved from its original dump site to where it was found, perhaps by animals. That revelation proved too much for Stires' mother Melba Nephew, who started weeping and left the courtroom. Stires' father, Barry Stires, kept his head down throughout the airing of the body recovery video shot by Levy investigators. Stires' parents and sister stayed out of the courtroom as the medical examiner shared her findings with the court.

Detectives James Merritt of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office and John Ellis of Hernando County Sheriff's Office both testified that when they visited Boutin in early January at his home in Homosassa regarding the then-missing 18-year-old Stires, he told them he saw her on Christmas, but that she left his residence with some male named either Mark or Mike Jones. Boutin also said he hadn't seen her since.

However, Ellis testified when he talked to Boutin again a few days later he left out the part about Stires leaving his residence with a man named Jones. He denied saying she left with someone else.

Boutin's ex-wife Roseanne Pate, who lives in Missouri, testified she got a call from a very upset Boutin in mid-January saying he hurt someone and may be put away for a long time. He even asked if he could move in with her to get away from Florida.

By the end of January, according to prosecutor Magrino, Boutin switched his story again, this time acknowledging that he and Brinson did pick up Stires from the Lady Lake area and used methamphetamine with her.

Boutin told investigators he and Brinson had briefly left Stires at his place to go get a picture frame, but returned to a house ransacked by an agitated Stires.

Boutin and Brinson reportedly also argued with Stires over missing methamphetamine, which they believed Stires stole.

Boutin said Stires' rage involved pulling Boutin's belongings out of cabinets, and while trying to subdue Stires, Brinson administered a "hot shot," or morphine. That morphine, said prosecution witness Burt, proved fatal. According to Burt, an average elderly cancer patient can only withstand between 300 and 500 mg/ml of morphine. Stires' morphine level at autopsy was 2,500 mg/ml.

She also had a blood alcohol level of 0.07. A blood alcohol level of 0.08 is considered drunk for driving purposes. Stires toxicology report also indicated she had cold medicine and ibuprofen in her system.

Defense attorney Vaughn said the toxicology showed Stires was hooked on drugs and booze and, therefore, prone to fits of anger.

Vaughn argued that Boutin and Brinson gave Stires the shot of morphine to calm her down and they took her to Boutin's father's barn in Brooksville and restrained her, but in a very comfortable manner. However, when Boutin and Brinson left the barn and returned later to check on her they found her cold and dead.

Vaughn said Boutin made inconsistent statements to authorities because he was unaware of the nuances of the law.

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