Heroin dealer confesses drug business caused deaths

By Steve Korris | Dec 20, 2013

Heroin dealer Deborah Perkins at last confessed that her drug business caused Jessie Williams and Jennifer Herling to die.

Perkins pleaded guilty to new charges of involuntary manslaughter in both cases on Friday in St. Clair County court.

So did her son Douglas Oliver, who had already admitted in federal court that his criminal conduct resulted in deaths.

In separate hearings before Circuit Judge Robert Haida, Perkins and Oliver also pleaded guilty of concealing a homicidal death in Williams’s case.

Haida imposed 19 year sentences on both, but they’ll serve no extra time.

The sentences will run concurrent with sentences they negotiated on federal drug distribution charges, 30 years for Oliver and 27 for Perkins.

Haida asked State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly in both hearings if the crimes involved former judge Michael Cook.

At Oliver’s hearing Kelly said there was no evidence of involvement.

At Perkins’s hearing Kelly said, “The people have no evidence whatsoever that former judge Michael Cook was in any way involved in the actions of Deborah Perkins in relation to the deaths of Jessica Williams and Jennifer Herling.”

Cook bought heroin from Sean McGilvery of Belleville, who pleaded guilty in federal court in October and admitted he sold heroin for Perkins.

Cook pleaded guilty in federal court in November, to charges that he possessed heroin and did so while owning firearms.

Oliver appeared first before Haida, with Justin Kuehn as counsel.

Assistant state’s attorney Deb Phillips announced an exchange of new manslaughter charges for previous distribution charges.

Haida told Oliver he didn’t take part in the negotiations, and he asked Oliver if he understood that he wasn’t bound by them. Oliver said, “Yes sir.”

Phillips said Oliver and Herling were in a dating relationship.

She said Herling frequently stayed in the home where Perkins and Oliver lived, on Kassing Drive in Fairview Heights.

She said that on Sept. 28, 2012, Oliver delivered heroin to Herling, who fell asleep and became non responsive and was later pronounced dead.

She said that on March 2, 2012, Oliver and Williams were in a dating relationship.

She said Oliver delivered heroin to Williams and she died. Perkins and Oliver drove her body away and left it in Washington Park where it was found March 19, she said.

She said the body was found March 19.

Kuehn said agents talked to Oliver and learned about “the broader conspiracy we have all read about from time to time.”

Haida asked Kelly why he didn’t recommend consecutive sentences.

Kelly said he considered the length of the federal sentences, the weight of evidence, and above all the families of Williams and Herling.

Oliver apologized to the families in the gallery, as he did in federal court.

“What I did was wrong,” he said.

Perkins passed up a chance to speak.

She had said in federal court that she didn’t know Herling, but she admitted in her new plea that Herling qualified as a household member under drug law.

hear him except when he said, “I pray for healing.”

For the families, the guilty pleas bring official recognition of their belief that the drug business on Kassing Drive killed Williams and Herling.

“They’re going to change the death certificate,” said Herling’s mother, Chris Keel. “Our next mission is to see that home torn down.”

She said they should make it a dog park.

Williams’s mother, Ginny Thomason, said, “I feel that we got some justice. There will never be enough justice.”

Kelly later confirmed that the coroner’s office would ask the state public health department to amend the cause of the deaths from accident to homicide.

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