EDWARDSVILLE — Two more cases of drug-induced homicide have been charged in Madison County, despite troubles in the past prosecuting such cases under state statutes.
Robert J. Kirchner, 40, has been charged in the death of Tony Sellers, who was found dead outside Kirchner's home in June. Autopsy results showed he died of a heroin overdose.
Kirchner is accused of buying heroin in St. Louis and delivering it to Sellers. According to police, then he and three others allegedly took Sellers' body out of the house and left it in the back yard to camouflage the cause of his death.
In addition to the Class X felony of drug-induced homicide, Kirchner faces charges of multiple drug offenses and concealment of a homicidal death. The other three people charged are his wife, Vindi Kirchner; Janet Denson, and Scott Bourbon, all of Granite City.
In an unrelated case, David Deforest Jr. and Debra Nelson each face charges of drug-induced homicide in the death of Dylan Hartman, 19, who died of a drug overdose in December.
According to police, Nelson sold liquid methadone to Deforest, who gave it to Hartman. Nelson and Deforest also face charges of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, a Class 2 felony.
In both cases, charges were filed after toxicology reports returned.
"These two tragic deaths underscore the terrible cost of drug addiction and the suffering that it causes for families, friends and our whole community," said Tom Gibbons, Madison County state's attorney. "With each death, we are reminded that there is still a lot of hard work to be done to rid Madison County and our entire region of these poisons."
There have been several drug-induced homicide cases filed in the last few years in Madison County, but not all have resulted in convictions. Of six overdoses from 2011 resulting in homicide charges in 2012, five were dismissed or settled on lesser charges after Madison County Associate Judge James Hackett ruled that the drug-induced homicide law does not apply in cases where drugs cross state lines.
In those cases, Gibbons said, the transfer of the drugs also took place in Missouri. In Kirchner's case, he said, the drugs were purchased in Missouri, but transferred to Sellers in Illinois.
However, Gibbons believes the law should be changed to reflect the reality that many metro-east drug addicts buy their drugs in St. Louis and then overdose in Illinois.
"I can't speak for the legislature, but I know a bill was introduced on that," he said. "It's something we're still pushing for."
Gibbons acknowledged that drug-induced homicide is a tricky prosecution. "Most drug deals don't take place on video camera and witnesses can, in some cases, be difficult," he said. "But we will persist in spite of the difficulty. I believe that the cause is just, and we will do everything we can."
Bail was set for $500,000 each for Kirchner, Deforest and Nelson, and $100,000 each for Denson and Bourbon. None are currently in custody.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.