EVANSVILLE — A woman whose apartment was the scene of an explosion that severely burned a man was found guilty Tuesday of dealing methamphetamine.
The Vanderburgh Circuit Court jury found Sassy Belle Sunderman, 32, guilty of the B felony after deliberating for about an hour and a half.
The jury could have found her guilty of a lesser offense of maintaining a common nuisance, a D felony, which is what public defender Conor O’Daniel supported.
While both sides disagreed about how to interpret the facts of the case, neither side disagreed on the majority of those facts.
The charge stemmed from a Jan. 21 fire in Sunderman’s West Side apartment that severely burned Michael Kingery. Sunderman fled the apartment at 480 Applewood Court but turned herself in to police several hours later.
Sunderman told police she watched Kingery open boxes of pseudoephedrine cold pills to begin making the meth and that he later sealed himself into the bathroom with duct tape to keep odors from escaping while he finished the process, according to testimony from Evansville Police Department Detective Sgt. Scott Hurt.
She told police she was sleeping on a couch when she heard a loud noise and then broke down the bathroom door to find Kingery with his legs on fire. The pair went outside where Kingery tried to extinguish his burning clothes.
Hurt testified that Sunderman said she “freaked out” and walked away from the apartment and eventually called her mother after wandering around.
Emergency responders found Kingery outside with most of his clothes burned away and screaming in pain. Police said he had burns to the majority of his body.
Deputy Prosecutor Jacklyn Buente argued that by allowing Sunderman to use her apartment, by helping him open the pill packages and by staying alone in the apartment with the meth lab for a time, she was an active participant in methamphetamine manufacturing.
“Although she wasn’t the cook, she played a major role in the process,” Buente said.
She noted police found items used both at the beginning and end of the manufacturing process in the apartment’s bathroom.
O’Daniel argued that one detective’s testimony that he saw the burned remains of a duffel bag in the bathroom with other meth-making items could have meant that Kingery allegedly took the lab with him when he left for a time.
“When we are talking about manufacturing, you have to do something,” O’Daniel stressed to jurors. “Maintaining a common nuisance is what she did.”
That statute, he said, more specifically fit Sunderman’s role in the events that took place that day.
Sunderman will be sentenced at 1 p.m. May 12.