Three heroin deaths, three different charges _lowres

Marc Roussel, left, Jarret J. McCasland, center, Brandon Eirick

A Baton Rouge man who admitted injecting one of his best friends with heroin pleaded guilty Friday to drug charges stemming from the 42-year-old man’s 2014 overdose death.

Marc Roussel, was initially booked on second-degree murder but later indicted on charges of heroin possession and possession with intent to distribute heroin. He pleaded guilty to both drug counts in front of state District Judge Bonnie Jackson.

A pathologist found that Guy Koontz Jr. died with multiple drugs in his system. Under a rarely used provision of the state’s second-degree murder statute, the ingestion of some controlled dangerous substances, including heroin, must be the direct cause of death for a violation of the statute to occur.

Jackson will sentence Roussel on Oct. 17. He faces up to 50 years in prison on the possession with intent to distribute charge and up to 10 years behind bars on the possession count.

But Roussel’s attorney, Jim Boren, said a plea agreement calls for Roussel to be sentenced to five years with credit for any jail time previously served in the case. He is currently free on bail.

Boren said he will argue at the sentencing that Roussel also should be given credit for the considerable amount of time he has spent in drug treatment since his arrest in the death of Koontz.

East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors contend Roussel’s time in drug treatment should not reduce his prison sentence.

“Marc has struggled with drug addiction,” Boren said afterward. “He has been through a vigorous in-patient treatment program for more than 18 months.”

Boren called Koontz one of Roussel’s best friends.

“He has never felt anything but great remorse and sorrow because of that,” Boren said outside Jackson’s courtroom.

Prosecutor Robert Savage said in court that Roussel told police Koontz gave him money to buy heroin, and that Roussel injected him with the drug. Koontz was found dead Feb. 27, 2014, in his own home. Police found heroin at Roussel’s residence, Savage added.

Last year, Jackson sentenced Brandon Eirick, 32, to six years in prison in the 2013 heroin overdose death of his 31-year-old girlfriend. Eirick, of Baton Rouge, told police he bought heroin for Leah Hutchinson but did not inject her with the deadly drug. He and Hutchinson injected themselves, Eirick told authorities.

Like Roussel, Eirick was booked on a second-degree murder count. But he was indicted on counts of manslaughter and heroin possession and later pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and heroin distribution.

Earlier this year, state District Judge Don Johnson sentenced Jarret McCasland, a 27-year-old Denham Springs man, to a mandatory term of life in prison in the 2013 heroin overdose death of his girlfriend, Flavia Cardenas, 19.

An East Baton Rouge Parish jury convicted McCasland last fall of second-degree murder after a pathologist testified heroin directly caused her death. McCasland’s attorneys argue multiple drugs were found in Cardenas’ system, including cocaine, and that heroin was not the direct cause of her death.

McCasland is appealing his conviction and sentence.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.