Court orders guilty verdict in overdose case reversed

Published 10:45 am Thursday, June 27, 2024

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal has reversed a Lake Charles man’s conviction and vacated his life sentence on a second-degree murder charge after he allegedly sold drugs to a woman who later died of a drug overdose in Kinder.

Deon Ray Bartie, 39, was found guilty last June in the September 2018 overdose death of 24-year-old Brittany Nicole Lapeyrouse of Chauvin. Prosecutors accused Bartie of selling narcotics to Lapeyrous who later suffered a fatal overdose.

Bartie appealed the conviction contending that the evidence was insufficient to convict him in the woman’s death.

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In an opinion authored by Judge Jonathan Perry, the three-judge appeals court panel found there was insufficient evidence to convict Bartie of second-degree murder. The panel ordered the conviction reversed, a judgment of acquittal entered and the sentence vacated.

Bartie was sentenced to a mandatory life in prison for second-degree murder and five years each for possession of methamphetamine, possession of alprazolam and for illegal carrying of weapons. All sentences were to be served concurrently.

On his appeal, Bartie contended that the state failed to provide evidence that the drugs he provided were the direct cause of the victim’s death. He argued that someone else supplied the victim with the heroin.

He further contends that the court erred in refusing his request for a forensic toxicologist.

The state contends that it provided evidence to the jury that Bartie sold methamphetamine to the victim the day of her death and that the methamphetamine, either on its own or with other narcotics, caused the victim’s death based on testimony and text messages from Bartie’s cell phone.

The victim was found dead in a chalet in Kinder after being moved from a Lake Charles hotel. Testimony from a witness indicated that the victim was still breathing when she was transported from Lake Charles to Kinder but was later found unconscious with blue lips.

Testimony from forensic pathologist Dr. Christopher Tape indicated the victim died due to multiple drugs in her body. He testified that high levels of morphine, fentanyl, methamphetamine and amphetamine were found in her body.

Drugs and drug paraphernalia, along with a gun were found inside the chalet during a search by police. Bartie told investigators the drugs and weapon were his, but denied selling any drugs to the victim on the day of her death.