“I could have kept us from using,” Kendall told the deputy in the video played for the jury. “I had the power in the relationship. She would have done whatever I wanted to do.”

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FORT WALTON BEACH — The trial began Tuesday for a Destin man charged with murder after the fentanyl overdose death of his girlfriend, who had just been released from rehab and had allegedly been sober when he convinced her to get high with him once more and then “quit forever.”  

William Tylor Kendall, 31, was charged with felony murder after the Dec. 16, 2015, death of his girlfriend, Barbara Brieann “Brie” Thomas, who was 28.  

Assistant State Attorney Angela Mason began laying out the state’s case against Kendall by using his own words in interviews to authorities the night of Thomas’ death. Among other things, he told investigators he made “it sound real good” and convinced her there was “no greater high than getting high together with the one you love for the first time,” according to his arrest report.

In the defense’s opening statement to the jurors, Kendall’s attorney T.S. Lupella said his client’s words didn’t amount to murder.

“He said some things … keep in mind that anything he said after she died was him feeling guilty about her death,” Lupella said. “If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be human. But it doesn’t necessarily make him a murderer for blaming himself to some degree.”

Mason also told the jury Thomas came to be in possession of the drugs that killed her after Kendall drove them to Fort Walton Beach, where they purchased $280 worth of what they thought was heroin. The drug turned out to be laced with fentanyl, a deadly opiod 50 times stronger than morphine. They then went back to Kendall’s condo in Destin, where they shot up the drug.

“He prepared the shots. He prepared the needles. He delivered the drugs for Brie’s one last time,” Mason told the eight jurors.

The state played the 911 call from the night of Thomas’ death, in which Kendall frantically communicated with the emergency operator about Thomas’ unconscious state and administered CPR and lifesaving efforts until paramedics arrived. The state also played body camera footage from the first deputy to respond to the scene, which showed Thomas splayed out on the floor in the doorway of Kendall’s condo.

Kendall sat motionless with a blank look on his face as the tapes played.

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First to take the stand were the first responders and law officers who answered Kendall's 911 call. An Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office deputy testified that Thomas had a pulse when he arrived, while two EMS workers testified Thomas had no pulse and was administered lifesaving efforts that ultimately failed to revive her.  

A Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab technician testified that residue found in a baggie could not be positively identified as any particular drug, but indicators for fentanyl, acetylfentanyl and heroin were present in the tests.  

A forensic expert testified that traces of Benadryl, fentanyl and acetylfentanyl were found in Thomas’ system after her death, and a medical examiner confirmed Thomas’ cause of death was acute fentanyl intoxication.

Finally, Thomas’ mother gave a tearful testimony in which she told the jury she had never met Kendall, and as far as she knew her daughter was still in the West Palm Beach halfway house she had just entered when she really was in Destin with Kendall.

During cross-examination, Lupella implied that Thomas had been kicked out of the halfway house and did not leave voluntarily as Mason had argued.

To close the first day of trial, the state played a three-hour body camera video from a sheriff's deputy's interview with Kendall at his condo on Dec. 28, 2015, nearly two weeks after Thomas’ death. In the video, Kendall said he could have chosen to go to a recovery meeting but decided to do drugs instead.

“I could have kept us from using,” Kendall told the deputy in the video. “I had the power in the relationship. She would have done whatever I wanted to do.”
 
The trial resumes Wednesday, when Lupella is expected to lay out evidence suggesting Thomas was not sober before she did the drugs with Kendall “one last time.” He also is expected to argue that Kendall’s role in Thomas’ death did not amount to murder.  

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