Murder charges dropped against 2 in drug overdose

Hymel aided arrest of drug dealer

Norco’s Jaime Hymel acted as a drug informant after the March 2 drug-related death of her friend Richard Keller Jr. of Destrehan, helping police to apprehend the dealer accused of selling the two drugs involved. Months later, Hymel was facing second-degree murder charges along with that dealer.

The charges against the two were dropped last week after the St. Charles Parish District Attorney’s Office said there was insufficient evidence to determine the heroin sold by convicted drug dealer Roderick Hackett was the direct cause of Keller’s death.

Hymel, 30, acted as an informant to help detectives arrest Hackett, who allegedly sold Hymel and Keller the substance that killed Keller and nearly took Hymel’s life, according to court documents. Hackett was convicted of attempted distribution of schedule I drugs in early June and was already facing a year of prison time.

But after coroner results were finalized, Sheriff Greg Champagne ordered Hackett and Hymel re-booked on the charge of second-degree murder based on state law that allows a law enforcement agency to levy the charge of murder after an overdose death.

“Upon review of the toxicology report in this matter, our office made the determination that there is insufficient evidence to prove that heroin was the direct cause of death,” said St. Charles Parish First Assistant District Attorney Juan Byrd.  “We will prosecute heroin dealers under this provision of the murder statute in the future, however, the evidence in this case makes it impossible for us to meet our burden of proof at trial.”

A 56-page document filed with the 29th Judicial District Court provided details of the case. According to that document, Hymel told investigators she and Keller were having a bad day and contacted Hackett, who Hymel admitted she had purchased heroin from earlier. She reportedly purchased a half-gram of heroin for $75 then returned to Keller’s Destrehan residence, where the two reportedly ingested the drug.

The next day, she awoke to find Keller’s unresponsive body. In need of medical assistance herself, Hymel reportedly passed out several times after police arrived. After being transported to St. Charles Parish Hospital, she agreed to aid the police investigation by setting up another deal with Hackett. Upon his arrival to her Norco residence, police apprehended him after a short chase on foot.

The toxicology report listed the cause of Keller’s death as multiple drug toxicities,  including heroin and fentanyl overdose and ethanol intoxication.

Both Hymel and Hackett potentially faced life in prison were they convicted on the murder charges.


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