This article was originally published here by author Bob Johnson.
SAGINAW, MI — A Saginaw man is free after a jury decided he was not responsible for the fatal heroin overdose of a Bay City woman.
A jury on Thursday, Dec. 8, found Jaymes D. Collins-Degrate, 22, not guilty of delivering a controlled substance causing death, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Collins-Degrate’s attorney, Alan Crawford, said police and prosecutors had the wrong person from the start.
“He shouldn’t have never been charged in this case,” Crawford said.
Nichole Rouech on Jan. 25 arranged, through text messages, to purchase heroin from Collins-Degrate, who she had listed as “Binky” in her phone, prosecutors alleged.
Shortly after that, Rouech, 28, overdosed in the bathroom of the McDonald’s restaurant at South Michigan and Mackinaw on Saginaw’s West Side, prosecutors said.
Crawford said that after Rouech called his client back-to-back to arrange the deal between 8:03 p.m. and 8:10 p.m., at 8:11 p.m. she called someone else.
“But police never investigated who that was,” Crawford said.
Crawford said that when police finally decided to go through Rouech’s phone to find out who the other person was that she had called, his client had already been charged in relation to her death.
According to Crawford, the person who answered on the other phone tried to sell drugs to police and was eventually arrested and admitted that he knew Rouech and had seen her the night she overdosed.
“I don’t understand how they didn’t charge him as a suspect,” Crawford said. “They didn’t want to investigate this guy because they thought they had their guy. The jury made the right decision and found (Collins-Degrate) not guilty.”
Saginaw County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Boyd said that all evidence that showed the involvement between the two parties was presented to the jury.
“There was a business relationship between the victim and defendant,” Boyd said. “But with the victim being deceased, we had to rely on circumstantial evidence.”
Crawford said Collins-Degrate was released from custody but still faces two pending drug cases.
The trial took place in Saginaw County Circuit Court Judge James Borchard’s courtroom.