ST. LOUIS – It was an unusual crime with two very different outcomes. A fatal buttocks enhancement injection brought a murder charge in Texas; but in Missouri, the punishment was more than 10 times lighter.
Vernetta Rochelle-Sanders talked about the Missouri suspect. “Ms. Lee left Texas to come all the way up to Missouri to shoot whatever she shot up in my sister’s body and she killed her. To me, that’s murder.”
But it’s not murder in Missouri. Rochelle-Sanders’ 22-year-old sister Daysha Phillips died in 2015 from silicone injections she hoped would improve her body.
“I’m hearing so many things that people have been shooting in their buttocks. I’ve been hearing ‘Fix a flat,’ some kind of silicone,” Rochelle Sanders said.
Edmundson Police Captain Jeff Heisse said, “Our suspect was kind of a ghost.”
That suspect was identified as Nitica Lee. It would take Capt. Heisse five years to find Lee.
Lee was eventually convicted of fatally injecting Daysha with silicone, but not before she flew out of town. Heisse identified her on airport surveillance video, learning she’d fled to Texas where she was a fugitive for years.
Captain Heisse and the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office shared with FOX 2 shocking interviews with other women who went to the same airport hotel for enhancements with Lee.
One woman told Capt. Heisse in a police interview room, “She injects you in the spot where she thinks you need it, multiple times, until it pumps up and then she stops and then she massages it into your skin and then she goes into the next spot and does the same thing.”
Capt. Heisse said the FDA sent investigators and tested the substance that killed Daysha. He said it was a stunning revelation.
“From what we were told from the Federal Chemistry Center, is it was basically construction-grade silicone, like you would see in any caulk gun, any tub or tile silicone that you could get from a hardware store,” he said.
Capt. Heisse asked another woman during a police interview, “She said this is ok to put inside you?”
The woman answered, “Yeah, she never said there was nothing wrong with it.”
The captain continued, “Ok, alright, and were you aware she was not a licensed medical practitioner?”
The woman continued during the recorded interview, “Yeah, but and like from me doing it so many times, so many different females want it in there.”
A third woman Heisse interviewed later died from a reported butt injection.
“Several years after this occurred, she was continuing to get injections and then she ultimately is deceased now from that,” Heisse said.
Nitica Lee could only be charged with manslaughter in Missouri, which brings a maximum of seven years imprisonment.
There are other deadly cases of failed injections. A Texas case brought a murder charge and 60 years in prison for Denise Rochelle Ross, yet Lee barely got any prison time in Missouri.
“Yes, in this case, it was something,” St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said. “We had to go back and hit the books on it to make certain where we were, because this kind of case doesn’t come along very often.”
Here’s the main difference between Missouri and Texas: practicing medicine without a license is a felony in Texas. That gives Texas prosecutors the discretion to charge murder after a fatality. In Missouri, practicing medicine without a license is a misdemeanor.
“That’s something legislators could look and I hope legislators would look at,” Bell said.
Bell said it deserves discussion even if legislators eventually decide against strengthening Missouri law.
“I imagine with what we are seeing with these types of procedures and a black market growing, I don’t think this will be the last,” he said.
Lee was finally arrested on a warrant during a traffic stop. She was brought back to Missouri and sentenced to five years in prison.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you serious?’” Rochelle-Sanders said. “She took a life! Whether you did it by a gun or a knife. You did it by illegally injecting her.”
Rochelle-Sanders remembers her sister Daysha’s military service, her spirit, and how she accepted everyone for who they were – in a world where Daysha felt she needed enhancements for people to accept her.
“It’s a shame that people feel like they have to enhance their body,” Rochelle-Sanders said. “Everybody is different. We’re all beautiful in our own way and if a lot of people would think like that, I think it would be a better place for everybody.”
We’ve reached out to Missouri legislators to keep this discussion going. We also checked in Illinois where we found practicing medicine without a license is a misdemeanor after the first offense. It can be charged as a felony the second time.