Three heroin deaths, three different charges _lowres

Marc Roussel

A 34-year-old Baton Rouge man begged Guy Koontz Jr.'s parents for forgiveness Monday before a state judge sentenced him to five years in prison in the 2014 heroin-related overdose death of their only child.

"We were a family. We were a threesome. Now we're just alone," Barbara Koontz told District Judge Bonnie Jackson as Marc Roussel and his attorney sat nearby.

Guy Koontz Jr.'s father, Guy Koontz, noted that he saw social media pictures of Roussel and his family spending time together last Christmas.

"Our son wasn't home for Christmas last year. He won't be home for Christmas ever again," the elder Koontz said in his victim impact statement.

When it was Roussel's time to speak, he turned and faced Koontz's parents and apologized for his role in the death of his 42-year-old friend and said he is not the same person he was back in February 2014.

"Today I'm asking for your forgiveness. It is my single biggest regret," he said of Koontz's death. "Mr. and Mrs. Koontz I'm begging you to please forgive me."

Jackson said it "boggles my mind" that anyone uses heroin.

"Heroin addiction kills a lot of people. Heroin is a terrible, terrible drug," she said. "I wish heroin wasn't the problem it is in this community and this country. Everybody who uses heroin knows somebody who has died from heroin."

The judge asked Koontz's parents to turn the tragedy of their son's death into a benefit for other families by speaking out about heroin and its deadly consequences.

Roussel, initially booked on a second-degree murder count in Koontz's death, was indicted later on charges of heroin possession and possession with intent to distribute heroin. He pleaded guilty to those charges in July.

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Jackson sentenced him to concurrent terms of five years in prison on the possession with intent to distribute count and four years on the possession charge.

Roussel's attorney, Jim Boren, asked the judge to give Roussel credit for the more than 18 months he spent in drug rehabilitation, but she said she was statutorily barred from doing so.

Roussel told police Koontz gave him money to buy heroin, and that he injected Koontz with the drug. Koontz was found dead in his home Feb. 27, 2014. He died with multiple drugs in his system. Police also discovered heroin in Roussel's home.

Jackson sentenced another Baton Rouge man, Brandon Eirick, to six years in prison last year in the 2013 heroin overdose death of his girlfriend, Leah Hutchinson, 31. Eirick, 32, who also was booked on a murder count but pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and heroin distribution charges, told police he bought heroin for Hutchinson but did not inject her. He and his girlfriend injected themselves, he told police.

Earlier this year, state District Judge Don Johnson sentenced 27-year-old Jarret McCasland, of Denham Springs, to life in prison in the 2013 heroin overdose death of his girlfriend, Flavia Cardenas, 19. A pathologist testified at McCasland's trial that heroin directly caused her death, even though multiple drugs were found in her system.

Under a seldom used provision of Louisiana's second-degree murder statute, the ingestion of a controlled dangerous substance, such as heroin, must be the direct cause of death for a violation of the statute to occur.

McCasland is appealing his conviction and sentence.  

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.