Stiffer charge for woman accused in murder, arson

Katelyn Marie Lusich was a pregnant 17-year-old when she, her boyfriend and a third man were arrested in February 2012 for their alleged roles in the fatal stabbing of 32-year-old Ashley King, whose body was found burned in her Slidell apartment.

In the months since, Lusich had been free on $750,000 bond, according to her attorney, Rachel Yazbek, while the father of her child, Andrew Sumner, and Devin Baham were in jail awaiting trial for first-degree murder.

But the case took a sharp turn last week when a grand jury reindicted the trio, who now all face the same set of charges.

Lusich, who was originally charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder and armed robbery, now faces charges of second-degree murder, obstruction of justice and aggravated arson. Sumner, 20, and Baham, 22, saw their first-degree murder charges reduced to second-degree murder. They also face obstruction of justice and aggravated arson charges.

Lusich and Baham were both arraigned on the new charges Friday and pleaded not guilty. Lusich is now in jail, according to her attorney, with her bail set at $1 million.

Sumner’s attorney, Dwight Doskey, said his client will be arraigned Friday.

“I think that the second-degree murder charge represents the most severe charge for which a conviction was ever possible,” Doskey said of the reduction in the charge against Sumner.

Lusich’s lawyer said that she does not know why the district attorney reindicted everyone in the case.

But Slidell police Detective Daniel Seuzeneau said that after grand jury testimony, it was determined that Lusich’s original account of what happened in King’s death didn’t detail her entire involvement in the crime.

“When it went before the grand jury, they obviously decided she should have been charged with a higher charge,” Seuzeneau said.

Lusich initially told authorities that she, Sumner and Baham went to King’s home to rob her after purchasing prescription pills from the woman earlier in the day.

According to authorities, the plan was to bind King, rob her and then split the proceeds.

Lusich told police she waited in the car while Sumner and Baham went into the home with duct tape and later returned with bottles of pills and $800 cash.

However, they told Lusich that something had gone wrong, and King had been stabbed to death. Lusich drove the two men away, but they returned the next day and set fire to King’s home on Bayou Lane, according to police reports. The fire was set with gasoline that the men had siphoned from a boat, and the blaze destroyed a substantial portion of King’s apartment.

The victim had moved to Slidell from Louisville, Ky., shortly before she was killed.

Seuzeneau would not discuss the particulars of the case, but said that given the grand jury’s decision, it was clear that the jury believed Lusich’s role was more “substantial” than initially reported.

Allen Powell II contributed
to this report.