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Closing arguments today for suspect who dumped girl in Levy

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Defendant declines to take the stand

By Abdon Sidibe

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INVERNESS — The jury in the capital murder trial of Byron Lee Boutin is expected to begin deliberations Friday after both the prosecution and defense rested.

At the close of the trial Thursday, Boutin, 42, of Homosassa elected not to take the stand.

Attorneys are expected to present their closing arguments Friday morning and soon after the 14-person jury is expected to begin deliberations.

Boutin is charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Brooksville teen, DeAnna Stires, 18.

He also is charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Boutin’s girlfriend Crystal Brinson, 36, of Brooksville also is facing a first-degree murder charge.

Prosecutor Pete Magrino is seeking the death penalty.

The pair is accused of overdosing Stires with morphine — the official cause of death — and dumping her corpse in a hunting area near Otter Creek 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.

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.

Prosecutors also believe Boutin has made a concerted effort to minimize his role in the teen’s death by telling ever-changing stories about the fateful days surrounding Stires’ death.

Thursday, the prosecution used video of Boutin’s last interview with investigators before his arrest in the case to illustrate what they consider Boutin’s penchant for changing his story.

However, Boutin’s defense team of Charles Vaughn and Clifford Travis has been steadfast that Boutin and Brinson were trying to calm a disruptive, drug-crazed teen when Brinson administered the fatal dose of morphine to Stires. The defense said that morphine was brought on Christmas Day to Boutin’s home by a man from Temple Terrace who was to have sex with Stires in exchange for the drug.

In the video played for the jury, Boutin could be seen and heard talking to Citrus County Sheriff’s Office detective Juan Santiago and Sgt. Chris Ball about his version of events.

In the 5-hour long tape, Boutin could be heard simultaneously painting himself as a victim of circumstances beyond his control and saying he may have been responsible for duct-taping Stires moments before she purportedly died in Boutin’s father’s garage/barn in Brooksville.

He mostly pointed to Brinson for pistol-whipping Stires after injecting her with morphine. Boutin in the tape had initially denied ever seeing syringes or seeing Brinson administer the fatal dose. He changed his story after Santiago pressed him about maybe protecting Brinson and said he did witness the injection.

Boutin also pointed a finger at a Brooksville woman, who he claims instructed them about how to wrap Stires’ body and where to dispose of it.

He also said the black fabric Stires’ body was found in was in his father’s garage when they got there with a doped-up Stires who was still alive, but snoring and sweating profusely.

But the then-detective Ball reminded him that in investigators’ conversations with the woman Boutin calls a “master manipulator” and linchpin of the body disposal, she said she had given the black fabric to Boutin a while back in his home.

Boutin continued to stick to his narrative that he was drawn into a messy situation by Brinson and the Brooksville woman and he only tried to help make it better by helping dispose of Stires’ body.

But investigators reminded him again that he had Stires’ corpse in the trunk of his vehicle for two days — from Christmas Day to Dec. 27 — driving around visiting people and even going to Brinson’s court date in Hernando County.

“I don’t feel evil. I did not intentionally do the wrong,” Boutin said during the interview.

But Boutin said he doesn’t feel he is responsible for Stires’ death. The detectives also pressed him about why he never called authorities for help when, as he claimed, Stires was still breathing and snoring at his father’s garage. Instead the investigators said he claims to have helped duct-tape Stires to an inversion table in the garage while Brinson stuffed her mouth with a gag.

Closing arguments begin Friday morning in Judge Ric Howard’s courtroom.

Contact reporter A.B. Sidibe at 352-564-2925 or asidibe@chronicleonline.com.