BROOKSVILLE — DeAnna Lee Stires' family sat down to Christmas Day dinner expecting her to be there.
If 41-year-old Byron Lee Boutin is telling the truth, they now know why she never came.
Boutin, a Homosassa resident, was arrested Wednesday evening and charged with second-degree murder, 12 days after hunters discovered the 18-year-old Brooksville woman's body in a wooded area in Levy County.
The Citrus County Sheriff's Office announced Boutin's arrest Thursday afternoon. An arrest report details his account of what happened leading up to the moment he dumped Stires' body two days after Christmas.
"It was extremely important to this agency and both the Hernando County and Levy County sheriff's offices that we bring closure to the family," Citrus Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said in a statement. "No one should have to experience what they've gone through. This was a particularly heinous crime done to such a young woman."
Stires lived in Brooksville with her father. Her family reported her missing on New Year's Day.
Investigators tracked down a man who said he spent several days with Stires, partying and doing drugs at homes in Hernando and Citrus, including Boutin's mobile home on W Brady Lane in Homosassa. The man said he last saw Stires alive on Christmas Eve leaving a house in Brooksville with Boutin and his 35-year-old girlfriend, Crystal Brinson.
Detectives got a warrant and searched Boutin's home on Jan. 18, the same day Stires' body was discovered wrapped in sheer fabric and bound with zip ties, metal wire and tie-down straps.
Investigators found blood throughout Boutin's home and in the trunk of his Lincoln Town Car. They also found a .38-caliber pistol with long strands of human hair lodged in the barrel and slide.
During interviews with detectives on Jan. 18 and 20, Boutin said he and Brinson brought Stires back to his house and she left after staying for a day.
On Tuesday, investigators confirmed that the blood found in Boutin's home and car was Stires'. The next day, Boutin told detectives he was ready to tell the truth. He gave this account:
After arriving in Homosassa, the trio continued to do drugs at his trailer. Christmas evening, Boutin and Brinson left Stires alone for about an hour. They returned to find the trailer ransacked and Stires "acting crazy." She accused Boutin of stealing a friend's clothes.
Boutin said Stires eventually calmed down, but he noticed that a bag of methamphetamine and a pipe were missing. The couple confronted Stires and found the bag in her possession, but not the pipe.
Brinson started to question Stires, but the conversation was "calm," Boutin said. Brinson then injected Stires with what Boutin believed to be morphine. The injection, he said, seemed "consensual."
A few minutes later, Boutin said, Stires started "flipping out" on Brinson, screaming in fear that she was going to hurt her. Brinson struck Stires several times on the back of the head with Boutin's .38-caliber pistol, knocking her unconscious.
The couple put Stires in the back seat of Boutin's car and drove her to his father's house off Centralia Road, northwest of Brooksville. When Boutin pulled Stires from the car, he said, she was snoring and sweating.
Worried she would wake up and "freak out," Boutin said, the couple laid her on a table in a detached garage. They bound her hands behind her back with duct tape, stuffed a rag in her mouth and wrapped tape over the rag. They left, returned an hour later to check on Stires and found her dead.
"Boutin stated that they stood there for several minutes in silence until it was decided that they needed to get rid of (the) body," the report states.
Boutin and Brinson put Stires in the trunk of the Lincoln and drove around for nearly two days. At one point, they stopped at a friend's house in Floral City and asked for help finding a secluded place to leave the body. It was the same man whose statement led investigators to Boutin.
On Dec. 27, Boutin dropped Brinson off at another friend's house. The woman suggested Boutin drive north on U.S. 19 and leave the body along a logging road. Boutin drove north for about an hour, turned onto State Road 24 near Otter Creek and dumped Stires "in an area where he knew she would eventually be discovered," the report states.
Boutin was being held without bail Thursday in the Citrus County Detention Center. He also was charged with being a felon possessing a firearm. He has prior convictions in Florida for drug offenses but no violent crimes, records show.
Officials said the investigation continues and more arrests may be made.
Betty Erhard, who hosted the family Christmas dinner at her Brooksville home, said the arrest of a suspect in her niece's killing brings the family some relief.
They knew DeAnna had become entangled with the wrong crowd, Erhard said. They suspected that rumors about her death being drug-related would be true. But they also had faith the woman they describe as kind and loving would get back on track and realize her dream to become a nurse.
Now they hope her death will serve as a warning.
"For teens in the same predicament as DeAnna," Erhard said, "let there be awareness."
News researcher Carolyn Edds contributed. Reach Tony Marrero at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431. On Twitter: @TMarreroTimes.