BR man indicted in girlfriend’s heroin overdose death

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Baton Rouge Police Department detectives Scott Hodges, left,  and Bryan Ballard, right, walk Brandon Eirick into an awaiting police car in Feburary in Baton Rouge. Eirick is accused in the 2nd degree murder of Leah Hitchinson, who died of a heroin overdose. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Baton Rouge Police Department detectives Scott Hodges, left, and Bryan Ballard, right, walk Brandon Eirick into an awaiting police car in Feburary in Baton Rouge. Eirick is accused in the 2nd degree murder of Leah Hitchinson, who died of a heroin overdose.

A Baton Rouge man who allegedly bought heroin for his 31-year-old girlfriend was indicted Thursday on manslaughter and drug charges in her heroin overdose death in December.

An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury’s charging of Brandon Eirick, 30, came five months after a parish grand jury indicted a Denham Springs man on a more serious second-degree murder charge in the fatal heroin overdose of a woman in July.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said the key difference in the two cases is that, according to Eirick, he did not inject Leah Hutchinson — his girlfriend — with the heroin he purchased, whereas a witness told sheriff’s deputies that Jarret McCasland, the 24-year-old Denham Springs man, injected Flavia Cardenas, 19, with heroin.

“The facts of this case indicate both the victim and the defendant went to purchase heroin together for both of their use,” Moore said. Eirick injected himself with heroin and Hutchinson injected herself, he said.

Moore said there were no witnesses other than Eirick.

“That’s the evidence we’re relying on — his statement,” the district attorney said.

Manslaughter is punishable by up to 40 years in prison. A second-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

“It’s a sensitive matter. It’s sad and tragic,’’ Eirick’s attorney, Fred Crifasi, said Thursday. He declined to elaborate on the case.

Eirick, 11414 Bard Ave., was booked Dec. 18 on a second-degree murder count but indicted on manslaughter and possession of heroin charges.

Baton Rouge police responded to 6945 Florida Blvd. on Dec. 18 and found Eirick and Hutchinson unresponsive in a vehicle. Both were transported to a hospital, where Hutchinson later died.

Eirick’s case has been assigned to state District Judge Bonnie Jackson.

Louisiana lawmakers expanded the state’s second-degree murder statute amid the crack cocaine epidemic in 1987 to include offenders who distribute an illegal drug proven to be the direct cause of a user’s death, even when that person lacked specific intent to kill.