CORUNNA — A Shiawassee County jury Wednesday returned a not guilty verdict for Stacy Stier in just 31 minutes in 35th Circuit Court.
The woman was accused of using her deceased boyfriend’s debit card after he passed away without the legal authority to do so.
The case was the first victory as lead counsel for Public Defender’s Office attorney Adam Pfeiffer, and marks the seventh acquittal or mistrial in the last eight in circuit court.
“This is not a case for a criminal court,” Pfeiffer told the jury in his closing argument. “This is a case for probate court, where a probate judge would decide who the money belonged to right after (Stier’s then boyfriend) died. And if needed, Ms. Stier would be ordered to pay the money back to the estate. We’re not here in criminal court over $600. We’re here over revenge.”
Stier, 42, of Owosso, was charged with felony possession of a financial transaction device. She testified Tuesday that her boyfriend Kyle Barlage died of a heroin overdose at their residence in August 2017.
Tuesday, Stier said that after Barlage passed away, she continued to use his debit card to pay bills at the residence they had shared for about nine months. She ended up using approximately $600 that was in Barlage’s bank account.
Unbeknownst to Stier, Barlage had a $25,000 life insurance policy through his employer that named her as the beneficiary. Stier testified she originally agreed to pay for the cost of Barlage’s funeral and headstone, but refused to do so when her relationship with Barlage’s family became contentious.
Stier was charged by prosecutors with illegal credit card possession Aug. 28, 2019, but was not arrested until Sept. 22, 2019. She was arraigned in 66th District Court before Judge Terrance Dignan and pleaded not guilty. Court records do not indicate the amount of bond, but Stier has been free while awaiting disposition of the case, and was released from the court’s jurisdiction following Wednesday’s verdict.
Prosecutor Deana Finnegan asked the jury to examine Stier’s credibility, telling them Stier “systematically zeroed out” her deceased boyfriend’s bank account of just over $600.
“Look at all the inconsistencies in her statements (to police),” Finnegan said. “She used that money for her own selfish needs. Her testimony is replete with lies. He was a cash cow.”
Finnegan noted Tuesday that Stier had lied to Owosso police when they responded to the call for Barlage’s overdose. Stier first claimed she didn’t know how Barlage got the heroin that caused his death, but when police told her they would be obtaining a warrant to determine the location of her cellphone before Barlage’s death, she admitted driving him to Flint to get drugs. She denied she knew he was there to obtain heroin.
Stier also testified she was “shocked” to learn Barlage had been using heroin, adding she was concerned she could somehow be charged with a crime related to Barlage’s death.
Had Stier been convicted of the single felony charge, she could have faced up to four years in prison and been ordered to pay restitution.