Gibbons 'very disappointed' in not-guilty verdict in heroin overdose

News-DemocratJanuary 16, 2014 

State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said while he is disappointed in the Angela Halliday verdict, his office will continue to prosecute heroin overdose cases.

Halliday, 29, of Moro, was found not guilty of aggravated battery Wednesday in a heroin overdose case. She had been accused of injecting a 29-year-old woman with heroin. The woman overdosed and was revived by paramedics.

Halliday was on parole at the time, having pleaded guilty in 2011 to delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. It was a plea bargain in the case of two other overdose cases, in which Benjamin Berkenbile and Halliday's boyfriend, Joshua Rogers, both died. Halliday had originally been charged with two counts of drug-induced homicide in their deaths.

Gibbons said the newer case was "very difficult on the facts," as the only two witnesses were both drug addicts.

"But it was important for us to push the case all the way to trial, to show how serious we are" about prosecuting heroin cases, he said.

"These are things causing enormous problems in the community; we are not going to stop," Gibbons said. "We have got to make sure that one of the elements in the fight against heroin is enforcement, in addition to treatment and education."

Madison County currently has charges pending against several others in drug-induced homicide cases:

* David Deforest Jr., 23, of Granite City is charged wtih drug-induced homicide in the death of 19-year-old Dylan Hartman, whose body was found in his Granite City home in December 2012. Debra Nelson, 42, pleaded guilty earlier this week to drug-induced homicide; she was accused of selling Deforest the liquid methadone he allegedly gave to Hartman.

* Robert Kirchner, 41, is charged with drug-induced homicide in the death of Tony Sellers by heroin overdose. Sellers, 45, was found outside Kirchner's home on June 20, 2012. Kirchner has also been charged with multiple other drug counts, and is accused of buying the heroin in St. Louis and delivering it to Sellers in Granite City.

Three others have been charged with concealing Sellers' homicidal death, accused of taking the body out of the house after his overdose and leaving him in the back yard. Charged are Vindi Kirchner, Janet Denson and Scott Bourbon, all of Granite City.

All cases are pending in Madison County Circuit Court.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 239-2507.

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