Alarming jump in fatal overdoses in New Orleans tied to synthetic drug often stronger than heroin _lowres

St Tammany Police dept photo provided of Heroin and needles

A Baton Rouge man accused of selling the heroin that killed a 23-year-old resident of a substance abuse recovery center in 2018 has so far avoided formal charges in the case.

The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office last week sought a second-degree murder indictment against Dreshun Devon Taylor in the death of Dylan McClendon, but a parish grand jury pretermitted the charge.

That means the panel neither indicted nor cleared Taylor.

District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Tuesday the grand jury's decision "allows this matter to remain open for potential future prosecution should further evidence and information be developed."

Taylor was booked in August on a second-degree murder count.

A seldom used provision of Louisiana's second-degree murder statute allows police to arrest someone on the charge if distributing or dispensing an illegal drug is the direct cause of the death. Prosecutors aren't required to show a defendant specifically intended to kill.

In 2015, a Denham Springs man became the first person convicted of second-degree murder in East Baton Rouge Parish under that provision when he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in the 2013 heroin overdose of his 19-year-old girlfriend.

Jarret McCasland's attorneys argued that Flavia "Cathy" Cardenas bought the heroin and injected herself with a fatal dose at her mother's house in Baton Rouge on July 26, 2013. But a friend of Cardenas testified she saw McCasland inject Cardenas with heroin and cocaine earlier that evening at the friend's house. McCasland told sheriff's detectives he injected Cardenas with cocaine, not heroin, the evening before she died.

In the McClendon case, his death was ruled accidental "due to multidrug toxicity," Moore noted.

Taylor was one of four men arrested in the death. Three relapsing residents of the substance abuse recovery center on Antioch Boulevard where McClendon died were booked in late 2018 and accused of purchasing heroin for McClendon, also a resident of the sober-living facility.

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Tyler Castro, 25, Baylor Johnson, 20, and Lambert Louviere, 25, were booked as principals to second-degree murder in McClendon's Nov. 20, 2018, overdose death.

Castro reportedly told detectives that Johnson and Louviere approached him that morning saying they had relapsed on heroin the night prior, so Castro said he wanted to be involved the next time they bought the drug.

Castro said McClendon found out about their plan to abuse heroin and started asking questions but said he had never done heroin before, authorities said.

Before the overdose, Castro, Johnson and Louviere went to Livingston Parish to buy heroin for themselves and McClendon, who had given the three other men $20 to buy him the drug, authorities said.

Castro told investigators all four men ingested the heroin upon their return to the sober-living home. Later that night, two of the men and McClendon traveled back to Livingston where they met the same heroin dealer and purchased more of the drug, an arrest warrant states.

Hours later, Louviere woke Castro about 2 a.m., saying McLendon was dead and Johnson was overdosing.

The men contacted management at the facility. According to arrest reports, an employee of the sober-living facility deployed Naloxone spray on both overdosing men, but was only able to revive Johnson.

Castro, Johnson and Louviere have not been formally charged, either by a grand jury or prosecutors.

Moore said their prosecution is "potentially restricted" by a state statute that provides immunity to persons acting in good faith who seek medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose.

Taylor has pending counts of second-degree battery, possession with intent to distribute heroin and marijuana, possession of methamphetamine, illegal possession of a firearm while in possession of a controlled dangerous substance, and illegal possession of a stolen firearm, the district attorney said.  

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