INVERNESS — Byron Boutin once told investigators he didn't feel responsible for the death of DeAnna Lee Stires.
"It wasn't ever in my hands," Boutin said. "I didn't take her life."
A Citrus County jury disagreed.
The 12-member panel took 3½ hours Friday to decide that Boutin was guilty of second-degree murder for his role in the killing of the 18-year-old Brooksville woman last December.
Boutin, 42, kept his head bowed and showed no emotion when the clerk read the verdict that may have spared his life. He had been charged with first-degree murder, and prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty.
Boutin now faces up to life in prison. Circuit Judge Richard H. Howard will sentence him next month.
Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino told jurors during the weeklong trial that Boutin and Crystal Brinson, 36, were angry that Stires had stolen Boutin's methamphetamine, and Boutin told Brinson to "do something about it."
Magrino acknowledged that testimony indicated Brinson injected Stires with a shot of morphine and hit her on the head with Boutin's handgun in his Homosassa trailer early on the morning of Dec. 26.
"He aided and assisted in the entire series of events that took place in his home," Magrino told jurors.
A medical examiner testified that Stires died of acute morphine intoxication. In closing remarks, defense attorney Charles Vaughn said the state failed to prove that Boutin intended to kill Stires or that he acted in concert with Brinson to secure morphine pills, cook them into liquid form and give Stires the shot.
"Crystal Brinson acted alone, on her own accord, doing these things," Vaughn said.
Boutin did not testify. During a recorded interrogation shown to the jury, Boutin said he, Brinson and Stires had spent Christmas Eve smoking methamphetamine in his Homosassa mobile home. Boutin said he was in bed with a cold when Brinson arranged to have her friend come to the trailer on Christmas Day to trade methamphetamine for morphine pills.
At one point, Boutin and Brinson left Stires alone in the trailer and returned an hour later to find the place ransacked, an agitated Stires and the methamphetamine and a pipe missing.
Boutin said he found the drugs in Stires' purse and just wanted to take her back to Brooksville. He said Brinson gave Stires the morphine shot, presumably to calm her down. As they were leaving, Stires "freaked out" again, and Brinson hit her.
Boutin said Stires was passed out when they loaded her into his car and took her to his father's house in Hernando County. They bound her hands and taped a rag into her mouth to keep her quiet, Boutin said, while they went to get a friend who knew her. She was dead when they returned.
Boutin dumped Stires' body in Levy County two days later.
Family members of both Stires and Boutin remained quiet after the verdict was read. They declined to speak to reporters.
Brinson has yet to stand trial on a first-degree murder charge.