Judge refuses to alter life sentence for Denham Springs man in girlfriend’s alleged heroin death _lowres

Jarret J. McCasland

A Baton Rouge woman who did drugs with Flavia “Cathy” Cardenas and Jarret McCasland the night before Cardenas died of what authorities called a heroin overdose testified Tuesday she saw McCasland inject Cardenas that night three times with heroin and three more times with cocaine.

“I think they just overdid it. I don’t feel like he did it on purpose,” Christina Garman said at McCasland’s second-degree murder trial in the July 26, 2013, death of Cardenas, his 19-year-old girlfriend.

Under a rarely utilized provision of the state’s second-degree murder statute, East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors must prove, among other things, that the heroin allegedly given to Cardenas by McCasland, 26, of Denham Springs, at Garman’s home was the direct cause of her death.

Prosecutors don’t have to show that McCasland had the specific intent to kill.

McCasland’s lead attorney, Rodney Messina, told the jury Tuesday that Cardenas, an exotic dancer, died with numerous drugs in her system, including heroin and cocaine.

“She was a user. She was an addict. You know what else? He’s an addict. They were getting high together,” Messina said of Cardenas and McCasland in his opening statement to the dozen jurors and one alternate juror.

Prosecutor Robert Savage told the panel that, unlike most murder cases, there is no gun involved in this one, but there might as well have been one.

“What you will see in this case is just as deadly, even more so,” said Savage, who referred to heroin as “deadly dangerous.”

“His distributing of drugs was no accident. His dispensing of drugs was no mistake,” the prosecutor added.

McCasland faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged. The jury also could return a lesser verdict of manslaughter or negligent homicide, or find him not guilty.

McCasland told police he injected Cardenas with cocaine but not heroin.

But Garman, who called Cardenas her best friend, said Tuesday she saw McCasland inject Cardenas three times with a brown substance she believed to be heroin — twice in the arm and once anally after the needle broke — the night of July 25, 2013.

Garman, who is jailed after being booked two months ago on counts of illegal possession of stolen things and attempted simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling, testified in green prison garb that she injected herself with cocaine that night.

Garman said Cardenas pulled cocaine from her bra when she and McCasland arrived at Garman’s home about 5:30 p.m. on July 25, 2013, “already pretty high.” Cardenas was pronounced dead at 11:30 a.m. the next day after her mother found her unresponsive in her bed.

“They were both shootin’ heroin and cocaine,” Garman said of McCasland and Cardenas, adding that McCasland was pressuring Cardenas to receive more injections even when she said she had enough. “He was telling her, ‘C’mon Cathy, c’mon Cathy.’ He was more or less pushing it on her.”

Garman said Cardenas and McCasland argued repeatedly while at her home the night before she died. McCasland was jealous and wanted to know who Cardenas had been with, Garman testified. She also said McCasland would pepper Cardenas with questions after injecting her.

“It was like he was using it (the heroin) as a truth serum on her,” Garman said.

She acknowledged it was Cardenas who asked her if she had ever taken drugs anally.

“She didn’t object to doing it,” Garman said of Cardenas.

Messina argued it was Cardenas who introduced McCasland to heroin.

The trial will resume Wednesday in state District Judge Don Johnson’s courtroom and is expected to last the rest of the week.