Michael Burnett Jr. was 31. He’d moved with his family to Palm Coast from New Jersey 14 years earlier. According to his obituary, he worked at Boulevard Tire in Bunnell, loved to cook and spend time on his Play Station 4, watching the History Channel or indulging in favorites like Star Wars and Harry Potter movies.
He lived with his parents in Palm Coast’s R Section. When a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy arrived there early the morning of June 23, 2018, a Palm Coast paramedic was administering CPR to Burnett. But he was unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at 7:20 a.m.
His father told deputies that he’d last spoken to Burnett the night before, as he was preparing for sleep. When he went to wake up his son at 6:45 a.m., he realized Burnett was not breathing. He and his wife started CPR as they called authorities.
The case report does not mention drugs. But Burnett had overdosed, a sheriff’s investigation later concluded. He had allegedly conducted a drug transaction with Joseph Carroll, 42, of 13 Shady Lane in Palm Coast.
On Tuesday, a Flagler County Grand Jury indicted Carroll on a first-degree murder charge, a capital felony punishable by death. Carroll was arrested later that evening at his Shady Lane home. He is being held at the Flagler County jail on no bond.
Carroll is the second person facing a murder charge in the death of Burnett. On Jan. 20, Allyson Dawn Bennett, 39, was arrested on a similar charge when she had reported to her probation office. But a day before the grand jury indictment of Carroll, Bennett pleaded to manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and now faces up to 15 years in prison when she is sentenced on October 4. It’s an open plea, which means that Circuit Judge Terence Perkins may sentence her to anywhere from five to 15 years. Carroll’s indictment appears to be an outgrowth of that plea agreement.
Bennett and Carroll lived together at the time of Burnett’s death. She has been at the Flagler County jail since January 20, and gave birth to her second child in April while incarcerated (her firstborn lives with her parents). In a bond motion in march–an attempt to convince the judge to let her out of jail on bond–her attorney had argued that the case against her lacked two essential elements: proof that she had directly sold drugs to Burnett, and that he died “because he took the alleged substance that was allegedly sold to him.” (The arguments are frequent in such cases.) The judge had denied the motion for bond.
Carroll, a convicted felon, has a long history of arrests. In 2016 he was arrested in Flagler on a charge of distributing morphine pills. The charge was dropped. (A sting operation established that he was selling the pills, but the pills themselves proved to be bogus.)
Bennett’s is the second conviction in Flagler County stemming from murder charges levied on individuals whose drug sales or transactions resulted in the death of another. The first was that of Joseph Colon, accused of selling the drugs that killed Savannah Deangelis in 2017. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison last year. Others have been indicted: in January, the grand jury in Flagler indicted Bennett and one other individual on a similar charge, Javian Neesmith, 21, of 12 Buttermilk Drive in Palm Coast, for his alleged role in the death of Dimitry Popkov, 39, last September.
Both Popkov and Burnett died of fentanyl overdoses. Neesmith’s case is still in the pre-trial stage. His attorney today filed a motion to incur $400-an-hour costs, which Neesmith cannot afford and would be paid for by the court, in securing the expert analysis of a toxicologist over “concerns as to the accuracy and/or validity of the testing and alleged results of the Victim.”