Dexter Allen of New Orleans, arrested last year in connection with the horrific execution of a man and his son in their Metairie home, faces spending the rest of his life in prison for his conviction on Monday (Oct. 17) of two counts of second-degree murder and 19 counts of simple burglary.
After hearing testimony over five days from almost 50 witnesses and seeing about 180 exhibits of evidence, a Jefferson Parish jury unanimously found that Allen, 18, used a stolen shotgun to execute David Pence, 56, and his son Nicholas Pence, 25, in the victims’ home just before midnight on April 22, 2015.
Allen, who traveled to Metairie in a sport-utility vehicle that he allegedly carjacked in New Orleans earlier that day, broke into 19 vehicles in the Pences’ neighborhood. He broke into David Pence’s Ford Mustang that was parked in the family’s driveway, and then slipped into the Pence home through a side door in hopes of stealing a purse that was visible from outside.
Allen killed the Pences with five shotgun blasts, according to testimony. David Pence was likely killed first, while he slept in the recliner chair from which he watched television almost nightly. A shotgun blast to his head probably killed him instantly, according to testimony. Nicholas Pence, who likely went to his father’s side after hearing the gunfire, appeared to have been forced to the ground before he was shot in the head.
Beth Pence was in her bed during the shooting, roused from sleep by the noise, she testified. She found her husband dead and her son dying and called 911 at 11:53 p.m., according to testimony. The jury heard a recording of her heart-rending call, including Nicholas Pence’s last breaths and a 911 dispatcher’s urging the woman to perform chest compressions to keep her son alive.
Judge Ray Steib of the 24th Judicial District Court set a Nov. 14 status hearing on Allen’s sentencing, which would be done at a later date. Because Allen was under age 18 at the time he killed the Pences, he cannot receive a mandatory life sentence in prison, which is the statutory punishment for second-degree murder under Louisiana law. Allen was 17 when he killed the Pences.
Judge Steib has the discretion to hand down either a sentence of life with the possibility of parole or life without parole, a decision he will make after hearing testimony and receiving evidence at a sentencing hearing. By law, Allen potentially could receive life with parole, meaning he would be eligible to apply for parole after serving 35 years of his sentence, provided certain criteria are met.
Allen denied killing the Pences, and there were no eyewitnesses to the homicides. However, he confessed to Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives William “Brad” Roniger and Thomas Gai that he and his girlfriend were in Metairie in a stolen vehicle, breaking into cars on the night in question.
Police found the shotgun hidden under Allen’s mother’s home in New Orleans. Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Emily Barrios, qualified as an expert in firearms and tool mark analysis, connected the spent shotgun shells in the Pence home to that shotgun. She testified she had “no doubt” that the shotgun found under Allen’s mother’s home was the murder weapon.
Laura Catilin Oliver of the Sheriff’s Office Regional DNA Laboratory, qualified as an expert in DNA analysis, testified that Allen’s genetic material was recovered from the shotgun’s stock, grip and trigger guard. The statistical probability that the DNA belonged to someone other than Allen is greater than only one in 100 billion, Oliver testified.
Two days after killing the Pences, Allen was arrested in eastern New Orleans. He led members of a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force on a vehicle pursuit that ended with his arrest after he jumped into the Industrial Canal at Interstate 10, according to testimony. Detectives found evidence in the stolen sports-utility vehicle and Allen’s mother’s home that was connected to some of the Metairie burglaries, according to testimony.
Detectives also found David Pence’s pharmacy card under the front passenger seat, where Allen sat after leaving Metairie following the homicides. That card was in Mrs. Pence’s purse, which was stolen from her kitchen countertop during the homicides, according to testimony.
Other evidence included residential security camera images of the burglars and traffic cameras through which detectives tracked the stolen SUV being driven to I-10 on Bonnabel Boulevard and back to New Orleans.
Allen’s attorney, who provided no witnesses, called the state’s case “100-percent circumstantial,” and argued that prosecutors had not proven that Allen killed the Pences.
The jury deliberated less than two hours before convicting Allen as charged of all counts. He still faces trial in New Orleans Criminal District Court for the carjacking and other offenses that occurred the day he killed the Pences and during the days that followed.
Allen’s girlfriend, Haraquon Degruy, 19, of New Orleans, awaits trial in Jefferson Parish on two counts of being principal to second-degree murder and 17 counts of simple burglary.
Assistant District Attorneys Seth Shute and Rachel Africk prosecuted the case.