Month: November 2018

Metairie man sentenced to 30 years in pawn shop robbery

A Jefferson Parish judge on Friday (Nov. 20) sentenced a former Metairie resident to 30 years in prison for his role in the armed robbery of an Airline Drive pawn shop last year.

Edgard Rivas, 27, was convicted by a Jefferson Parish jury last month of two counts of first-degree robbery in connection with the crime that occurred on the evening of Jan. 7, 2017. Two of Rivas’ roommates, Mario Geovani and Carlos Ramos, previously pleaded guilty as charged to armed robbery counts.

Geovani and Ramos were armed with an AR-15 rifle and a semiautomatic pistol, while Rivas carried a hammer which he used to break glass display cases to steal jewelry, according to testimony. Two of the robbers wore Jason character masks from the “Friday the 13th” movies.

Rivas stood trial on charges of armed robbery, but the jury deliberated about two hours before returning with the lesser verdicts of first-degree robbery. Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Rivas to 30 years for each of the two counts and ran them concurrently, reasoning that he disagreed with the jury.

“It’s not often the court disagrees with a jury,” Judge Regan said. “However, in this particular case, the court feels the state proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Sitting in the courtroom, the victims declined to give impact testimony. Rivas gave a statement, apologizing to the victims but maintaining his innocence.

Ramos, 21, and Geovani, 22, previously pleaded guilty to armed robbery counts. Ramos received a 20-year sentence and Geovani was sentenced to 26 years.

Assistant District Attorneys Blair Constant and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted Rivas.

Separately, Edward West, 31, of Harvey, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his armed robbery convictions and for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

West was convicted of robbing two women of their purses, moments apart in neighboring business parking lots in the 1500 block of Manhattan Boulevard on Nov. 18, 2016.

His first victim was a 31-year-old woman who was putting her newly purchased items in her car when she was assailed. West then ran across that parking lot to rob a 78-year-old woman of her purse. Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested him shortly after in a nearby apartment.

Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court handed down the sentences on Nov. 8. A multiple bill hearing for West is set for Jan. 10.

Assistant District Attorneys Seth Shute and Emily Booth prosecuted West.

 

Olivia Matte sentenced to 20 years for DWI fatality on Causeway bridge

A Jefferson Parish judge on Thursday (Nov. 15) sentenced Olivia Matte to 20 years in prison for causing the death of a Mississippi man while she was driving drunk on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway last year.

Matte, 28, of Covington, who had remained free on bond since pleading guilty on Sept. 4, surrendered Thursday to begin serving her sentence.

James Blackmond, 37, of Foxworth, Miss., was driving his pick-up south on the Causeway early on the morning of March 23, 2017, when Matte drove into the rear of his truck about three miles north of the south shore. Blackmond was killed and his passenger was injured.

Matte had a blood-alcohol content of .216, close to three times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana. On Sept. 4, she pleaded guilty as charged to vehicular homicide, vehicular negligent injuring, operating a vehicle with a suspended driver’s license and failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle.

At her attorney’s request, Judge Glenn Ansardi of the 24th Judicial District Court ordered a presentence investigation on Sept. 4 and allowed Matte to remain free on bond until her sentencing.

After hearing impact testimony from witnesses on both sides of the matter, Judge Ansardi sentenced Matte to six months for the negligent injuring, six months for driving with a suspended license, 90 days for careless operation and 20 years for the vehicular homicide. He ran the sentences concurrently.

Assistant District Attorneys Joshua Vanderhooft and Richard Olivier prosecuted the case.

Corey Woods convicted of Metairie triple-murder, illegal gun possession

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday night (Nov. 8) convicted Corey Woods of killing three people as they sat in a car on a Metairie street last year, finding that he executed one victim and then shot two others to eliminate the witnesses. One of the victims was a 16-year-old girl, whom Woods shot in the back of her head as she attempted to flee for her life, according to the evidence presented during the three-day trial.

Woods, 33, of Metairie, who is known by the nickname “Cocomo,” was convicted as charged of three counts of second-degree murder and of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

About 9:45 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2017, Woods sat in the rear driver’s side seat of a car when he opened fire with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. His target was Malcolm Wallace, 25, of Metairie. He also shot Wallace’s girlfriend Daneka Lott, 24, of Kenner; and Wallace’s teenage sister Monica Bates, of Metairie, according to trial evidence.

Sitting in the front passenger seat of the 2006 Honda Accord, Wallace was struck twice. One of the bullets severed his spinal cord, causing an injury that would have left him paralyzed had he survived, forensic pathologist Dana Trosclair testified. Lott, the driver, was shot in the right side of her head. She and Wallace died later at a hospital. Bates was struck in the back of her head and died in the back seat, behind where her brother sat, according to testimony.

“You can conclude by the evidence they were killed by ambush,” Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese, prosecuting with Lynn Schiffman, told jurors.

Woods had spent the evening earlier with Wallace and his family watching a football game, after which the four people drove to a sporting goods store on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, where Lott and Bates went inside to purchase slippers, according to testimony.

They returned to the neighborhood from the store and a fast-food restaurant when Lott pulled to the side of road in the 1400 block of South Laurel Street, just off Mistletoe Street. That’s where Woods began shooting. After the shooting, the car, still in the drive gear, moved forward and struck a utility pole, according to testimony.

Woods ran north on South Laurel, crossing a drainage canal along Airline Drive while apparently wearing the slippers that Lott and Bates purchased at the sporting goods store shortly before. He fled in the direction of his neighborhood just north of Airline Drive at David Drive, according to testimony.

A combination of witness interviews and business surveillance video led Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Detective Joe Waguespack to identify Woods as the killer.

Woods denied all four charges. His public defenders argued that Wallace previously attempted the armed robbery of an elderly woman, and that woman’s great-grandson committed the murders in retaliation.

Wallace was prohibited from possessing guns because of his felony narcotics convictions. He faces life in prison without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

Judge Donnie Rowan of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Woods on Dec. 3.

(UPDATE: Woods’ sentencing hearing was continued to Jan. 7, 2019.)

Assistant District Attorneys Doug Freese and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.

Teddy Chester convicted anew of murdering Kenner cabbie John Adams in 1995

A Jefferson Parish jury on Monday night (Nov. 5) found Teddy Chester guilty of killing a cab driver in East Jefferson 23 years ago, bringing to two the number of times he has been convicted of the same crime.

Chester, 40, is guilty as charged of second-degree murder for the Dec. 27, 1995 killing of John Adams, 34, who was a driver for a Kenner-based taxi cab company. He was killed during a botched armed robbery that Chester and co-defendant Elbert Ratcliff planned, prosecutors argued in the trial that began last week.

“This is not a planned murder,” Assistant District Attorney Douglas Rushton told jurors in closing argument Monday. “This is a planned armed robbery during which the homicide occurred.”

“This was a senseless killing, a senseless murder of John Adams,” Assistant District Attorney Lynn Schiffman told jurors Monday. “He was working his job, just like everybody else does every day.”

Mr. Adams was shot once in the back of his head while in the driver’s seat of his taxi, after he responded to a 4 a.m. dispatch to the 700 block of Calhoun Street, according to trial testimony. The area of East Jefferson near River Ridge is known among local law enforcement for its narcotics distribution activities and is called “The Dump.”

About two hours after the dispatch, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies who responded to a report about an abandoned vehicle found Mr. Adams’ body in the driver’s seat. The cab’s engine was still running, and the vehicle itself had left the roadway. The cab’s contents were strewn about inside and outside the vehicle, according to testimony. Deputies still found cash on Mr. Adams’ body, which was indicative of a botched armed robbery.

Detectives linked Ratcliff, then 25, to the murder after finding his thumb prints on two of Mr. Adams’ business cards, one inside the car and one outside, according to testimony. Questioned by Detective Ralph Sacks, Ratcliff named Chester as his cohort and the shooter, according to testimony.

During his trial in 1997, Ratcliff was convicted as charged of second-degree murder for his role in the crime. He is serving a life sentence in state prison.

After arresting Chester, detectives found in his apartment a cap and jeans with blood on them. The DNA profile obtained from the cap was consistent with a mixture of Mr. Adams and Mr. Chester, according to testimony. DNA analysts were unable to obtain a genetic profile from the blood on jeans.

During his interrogation 23 years ago, Chester admitted to Detective Sacks that he was in the cab, but only because he was trying to sell fake narcotics. He blamed Ratcliff for killing Mr. Adams, although he admitted to his then-girlfriend that he pointed the pistol to the back of the cabbie’s head when it accidentally fired, according to testimony.

In 1997, Chester was convicted as charged of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death for the crime. However, in June 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan of the Eastern District of Louisiana, in presiding over Chester’s federal habeas corpus proceedings, ordered a new trial. She ruled that Chester’s original trial attorney committed several errors that deprived him of his constitutional right to effective representation.

Instead of appealing Judge Morgan’s ruling, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office opted to retry Chester, albeit on a charge of second-degree murder. The offense carries a punishment of life in prison without probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

Chester, who did not testify, continued to maintain his innocence and accused Ratcliff of being the killer. The Jefferson Parish jury deliberated about 1 ½ hours before returning with its unanimous verdict.

Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court set Chester’s sentencing for 9:30 a.m., on Nov. 15.

(UPDATE: Judge Kovach on Nov. 15 granted Chester’s attorneys’ request to continue the sentencing. The new sentencing date is Dec. 12).

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the latest case.