INVERNESS — DeAnna Lee Stires made a fateful decision last Christmas.
Instead of celebrating the holiday with her family, the 18-year-old Brooksville resident spent it in Homosassa, doing drugs with Byron Lee Boutin and Crystal Brinson. By Dec. 26, Stires was dead. The next day, authorities say, Boutin dumped her body in a remote wooded area in Levy County.
Boutin, 42, admitted to investigators his role in Stires' death and to disposing of her body. But on Tuesday, during opening statements in his first-degree murder trial, attorneys on each side cast Boutin in very different ways.
Boutin's own life is on the line. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty if the 12-member jury convicts him.
Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino told jurors that Boutin and Brinson, 36, were angry that Stires had stolen Boutin's methamphetamine, and Boutin told Brinson to "do something about it." Boutin is guilty of premeditated murder even though it was Brinson who hit Stires in the head with Boutin's .380 handgun and injected her with a shot of morphine, Magrino said.
"As a result of that, DeAnna Stires ultimately met with her death," Magrino said. "That's murder in the first degree in Florida."
Boutin's attorney, Charles Vaughn, cast Boutin as an unwitting accomplice who just wanted Stires, who lived with her father in Brooksville, out of his mobile home that day.
After the three did some methamphetamine, Boutin and Brinson left Stires alone for about an hour while they ran an errand, according to Boutin's account. They returned to find drugs missing, the trailer in disarray, and an agitated Stires.
It was Brinson who decided to pistol-whip Stires and then inject her hand with a shot of morphine after the pilfered drugs were found in her purse, Vaughn said. Boutin thought Stires consented to the shot to calm her down, and she ultimately died of an accidental overdose, Vaughn said.
"(Boutin) got caught in a bad situation with a very aggressive, very angry woman named Crystal Brinson," Vaughn said. "Independently, on her own, Crystal Brinson did this."
Boutin later told detectives that Stires was alive but sweating and snoring when he and Brinson put her in the back of Boutin's Lincoln Continental and drove her to the house of Boutin's father off Centralia Road, west of Brooksville, with hopes she would sober up. They taped her to a table in a detached garage, put tape over her mouth and left. When they returned a short time later, she was dead.
Boutin drove around with Stires' body in the trunk for nearly two days, Magrino said. He eventually drove north on U.S. 19 into Levy County. Hunters found the body there about three weeks later.
Boutin changed his story several times during interviews with investigators, finally offering details repeated in the courtroom Tuesday. He was arrested Jan. 30 and demanded a speedy trial.
Later Tuesday, jurors saw a video recording of Stires' body, tightly bound in black fabric and lying among some palmetto bushes off a rutted dirt road. Stires' mother, Melba Nephew, rushed out of the courtroom in tears. Boutin sat slumped at the defense table and mostly kept his eyes lowered.
Dr. Martha Burt, associate medical examiner, testified she found two lesions on Stires' head that were likely traumatic injuries but would not have been severe enough to cause death.
Burt said toxicology results showed the amount of morphine in Stires' system was much higher than what would typically be found in a terminal cancer patient using a morphine drip. She determined Stires died of acute morphine intoxication.
Reach Tony Marrero at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.