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Man Charged in Fatal Overdose Confesses

An alleged heroin dealer accused in the fatal overdose of a West Knoxville woman insisted on taking the witness stand Wednesday against his attorney’s advice and, at times tearful and other times yelling, confessed to the lion’s share of the allegations against him. “I want to clear the record,” Kenyon Reynolds told jurors soon after taking to the witness stand in Knox County Criminal Court Wednesday. “I want to be truthful. I want to get it all out … I want to clear it up. Am I wrong about that?”

‘My life is on the line’

Reynolds is facing charges including second- degree murder for selling Justin F. Lee heroin that Lee, in turn, sold to his ex-girlfriend, Jessica Lyday, in July 2015. Lyday overdosed on the heroin and died.

There is a special provision in the law that allows prosecutors to seek a second-degree murder charge in a death “that results from the unlawful distribution” of particularly lethal drugs such as cocaine and heroin or other opiates if they link the drug in the victim’s body to a specific supplier.

In this case, though, it was Lee who directly put the heroin in Lyday’s hands. Reynolds didn’t know her and had no idea to whom Lee would sell it. Reynolds never even mentioned Lyday’s death in his testimony, other than to note Lee “is charged with the exact same thing.”

Lee wound up cooperating in Knoxville Police Department Investigator Phil Jinks’ probe and leading them to Reynolds. Lee is charged, too, in Lyday’s death but testified for prosecutors Hector Sanchez and Ken Irvine against Reynolds, signaling a likely plea deal.

When Reynolds insisted on testifying Wednesday, defense attorney Clinton Frazier had no choice but to stand back and allow Reynolds to give jurors a monologue.

“This is the first y’all ever laid eyes on me,” Reynolds told jurors. “My life is on the line. Whenever you point a finger (of blame) at me, you got three pointing back at you. I just had to get that off my chest.”

According to Reynolds, he was too busy gambling — “shooting dice” — and losing money at it to deal with Lee’s phone calls seeking heroin in the hours before Lyday died.

“My intentions was to brush him off because I’m losing money on gambling,” he said. “I’m already frustrated about losing my money.”

‘I did sell him some’

But Reynolds, without provocation by the prosecution, then admitted he did sell Lee heroin on the night of Lyday’s death.

“I did sell him some,” he said before raising his voice and tearing up. “I had no idea how it (would) feel sitting over there (at the defense table) … They just pointing the finger. You’re just looking at me, picturing the worst thing in the world … I’ve been sitting here (in jail) for 33 months. I done lost my house. I done lost my kids.” Lyday was in her third year at the University of Tennessee when she began dating Lee and wound up hooked on prescription painkillers, testimony has shown.

As is typical with opioid addiction, Lyday eventually turned to heroin, which is cheaper per dose than prescription pills. Her mother testified Lyday struggled to overcome her addiction and was readying for an interview to be accepted into a long-term, faith-based treatment program in Nashville when — unbeknownst to her mother — she called Lee to buy heroin. While her mother slept, Lyday injected the heroin inside her Westridge Drive childhood home and overdosed. Her mother found her dead the next morning. In addition to the second- degree murder charges, Reynolds also faces charges including heroin possession within 1,000 feet of a school zone — in this case, Rocky Hill Elementary School — and unlawful possession of a gun.

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