Two former cellmates told jurors on Friday that an Okawville man laughed about an Ashley teen’s overdose death while they were in the Washington County Jail.
Randall Mamino, now in federal custody for an unrelated case, said 22-year-old Shane Lindsay spoke to him about what happened the night before 18-year-old Dakota Ellerbusch’s death in a family-owned cabin in rural Washington County.
Mamino told police in an interview that Lindsay said he knew the methadone Ellerbusch drank that night wasn’t safe — saying the liquid was the wrong shade of purple and Lindsay knew the drug’s dealer was known for lacing drugs with fentanyl.
Mamino said in the interview that Lindsay did not drink any of the soda-methadone mix with Ellerbusch and Lindsay’s girlfriend, Emily Rensing — who testified earlier this week she felt “deathly sick” after a few sips on Dec. 30.
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Mamino also told police in the recorded interview that Lindsay said he and Ellerbusch both did heroin in the clubhouse the same night.
“He thinks it’s funny, he was laughing about it,” the inmate said in a taped interview with police. “I said, ‘All you had to do was call the police and you might not be here with me.’”
Ellerbusch was found dead by his grandfather in their family clubhouse on Jan. 1 after Rensing and Lindsay left Ellerbusch unresponsive at the cabin.
The two checked up on the teen one other time, earlier that holiday weekend. Various testimony left it unclear whether the teen was dead when Lindsay and Rensing checked up on him the second time that weekend.
During cross-examination of Mamino, Lindsay’s attorney, Dennis Hatch, suggested that the inmate was talking to police in order to help himself in his own federal case.
Another former cellmate, James Cable, who is now incarcerated in Indiana, testified for the prosecution as part of plea deal in an unrelated burglary and theft case.
Cable said he came forward because he understands the Ellerbusch family’s need for closure.
“I wasn’t trying to be a jailhouse snitch.” Cable testified. “What really got me is that he showed no remorse for it. … That’s not right.”
Cable added, “He said he actually did it — he said he killed the guy. He actually laughed about it.”
Hatch had been Cable’s lawyer before Cable talked to police about Lindsay.
During a heated questioning, Hatch noted that Cable received a deal for his testimony against Lindsay — but Cable pointed out he was still convicted of a felony. The inmate added that Hatch had told him, as his lawyer, he could negotiate that felony charge down to a misdemeanor.
Judge Daniel Emge had to intervene several times, instructing Cable to only answer the questions Hatch was asking and not to talk out of turn.
Washington County Sheriff’s Detective Craig Campbell also took the stand Friday to testify about his interviews of Lindsay.
In a lengthy cross-examination, Hatch pointed out that several times during the first interview — conducted Jan. 27 after Lindsay was arrested on unrelated traffic charges — the agent and officer said they could help him if he conducted undercover buys with the dealer who gave Ellerbusch the methadone.
While Lindsay agreed to that in the taped interviews, police never had him contact the dealer.
Lindsay was charged in Washington County with drug-induced homicide in addition to obstruction of justice by destroying evidence, concealment of a death and unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.
The obstruction charge accuses Lindsay of giving false information to a Washington County detective “as to the true circumstances surrounding the death of Dakota Ellerbusch and his actions and involvement thereto.”
The concealment charge accuses Lindsay of “lying to and giving misdirection to John Ellerbusch as to the actual physical location of Dakota Ellerbusch,” for the purpose of “preventing or delaying the discovery of the death of Dakota Ellerbusch.”
If Lindsay is convicted, the drug-induced homicide charge carries a sentence of 15-30 years in prison.
Hatch argued at length on Friday afternoon, outside the jury’s presence, that all five counts should be dropped
Hatch said there was a lack of evidence — such as no expert determination of a cause of death, and no proof of the fentanyl’s origin.
Hatch also argued that the prosecution had not presented evidence that Lindsay “knowingly” delivered the fatal substance to Ellerbusch or that he took action to conceal the teen’s death.
In addition, Hatch argued, testimony about Lindsay bringing heroin to Ellerbusch’s cabin is not, by itself, enough to prove that it contributed to his death.
Prosecuting attorney Daniel Bronke argued there was sufficient evidence presented for the trial to continue.
Emge said he would issue a ruling on Monday.
If the charges are not dropped as a result of Hatch’s motion, the trial was scheduled to resume Monday morning.