Author: Paul Purpura

I'm the public information officer for the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office. Reach me at 504.361.2514 or ppurpura@jpda.us.

Harvey parents sentenced to prison in child cruelty case

A Jefferson Parish judge on Wednesday (Oct. 9) sentenced Lionel Smith of Harvey to 13 years in prison after a jury convicted him of cruelty to juveniles upon he and his girlfriend’s children as well as her children from another relationship.

Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court also sentenced the children’s mother, Cieara Wilson, also of Harvey, to eight years in prison, suspending all but one year of the prison term.

Smith, 32, was convicted as charged by a Jefferson Parish jury on Sept. 5 of four counts of cruelty to juveniles. Wilson, 33, who was tried with Smith, was convicted as charged of two counts of cruelty to juveniles. The crimes, which occurred over a period of years, were reported to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in November 2016, when the children were ages 3, 4, 12 and 14.

Wilson was the mother of all four children, and she had two of the children with Smith, who meted out severe punishment to all four children while Wilson did little to nothing to intervene, Judge Grefer noted. He ordered the parents to view crime scene photos of the children’s injuries during the sentencing hearing.

“They were severe,” Judge Grefer said of the injuries. “They were intentional. They were repeated.”

Smith inflicted the brunt of the beatings. Wilson also beat her kids but not as severely. Still, Judge Grefer noted, Wilson did nothing to stop Smith. “I don’t see how you can allow that to happen to your kids,” he said.

Assistant District Attorneys Laura Schneidau and Emily Booth prosecuted the case.

Twyena Thomas sentenced to life for murdering her toddler

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Sept. 30) sentenced Twyena Thomas to life in prison for her conviction of killing her 28-month-old son, Chase Thomas.

On the two-year anniversary of Chase’s death, Thomas, 29, appeared in court to receive the mandatory punishment for second-degree murder. A Jefferson Parish jury on Aug. 22 convicted her as charged for causing her son’s death in their Kenner apartment through blunt-force trauma injuries to his head. Chase also weighed a mere 15 pounds at death.

 “Chase’s scars, scabs, bruises, his broken skull and his 15-pound body tell us that you were the hateful monster.”

“Chase died alone in his room, scared not of the imaginary monster in his closet, but you. You were the monster. Chase’s scars, scabs, bruises, his broken skull and his 15-pound body tell us that you were the hateful monster,” 24th Judicial District Judge Danyelle Taylor said in sentencing Thomas to life at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

After denying post-verdict motions for a new trial, Judge Taylor heard letters written by six people and two witnesses before handing down the sentence. The defendant addressed the Court prior to sentencing and stated that Chase “didn’t deserve that.”

Assistant District Attorneys Matthew Whitworth and Jenny Voss prosecuted the case.

Man convicted of sexually abusing girl sentenced to 60 years

A Jefferson Parish judge sentenced Rafael Chinchilla to 60 years in prison Thursday (Sept. 12), for his conviction of sexually abusing a child.

Chinchilla, 33, a native of Honduras, was convicted by a Jefferson Parish jury on Aug. 30 of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13, indecent behavior with a juvenile under age 13 and indecent behavior with a juvenile.

The abuse began when the victim was 11 years old and continued until she was 13. The crimes occurred in Metairie and Kenner, during which Chinchilla sent her text messages both professing his love for her and threatening her. Police were notified in February 2017, after the victim’s father searched her mobile device and found evidence of the abuse, including audio of the victim telling Chinchilla to stop.

After hearing impact testimony from the victim and her father, Judge E. Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Chinchilla to 60 years for the sexual battery, 20 years for the indecent behavior of a juvenile under age 13 and seven years for the indecent behavior with a juvenile. The sentences were run concurrently.

Judge Adams also ordered that, should Chinchilla be released from prison, he be electronically monitored and register as a sex offender for life.

Assistant District Attorneys Matthew Clauss and Emily Booth prosecuted the case.

Metairie man sentenced to 30 years for sexually abusing boy, child pornography

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Sept. 9) sentenced David Rees of Metairie to 30 years in prison after the defendant pleaded guilty as charged to crimes involving children.

In addition, Rees, 49, will register as a sex offender for life and face a lifetime of electronic monitoring should he be released from prison, 24th Judicial District Judge Stephen Enright ordered in accepting the guilty pleas.

Rees pleaded guilty to seven counts of pornography depicting children under age 13, oral sexual battery and molestation of a juvenile. Rees had been scheduled to stand trial on the charges this week.

Rees was arrested in January after the Louisiana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force found pornographic images and videos depicting children on his home computer, cellphone, email and other locations. He was also arrested for sexually abusing a 4-year-old boy in 1996. The victim was under the care of Rees’ mother, who ran an unlicensed childcare business from her home, when the abuse occurred.

Judge Enright sentenced Rees to 30 years on each of the seven pornography counts, 15 years for the oral sexual battery and 15 years for the molestation of a juvenile. He ran the sentences concurrently and ordered that the sentences be served without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

Assistant District Attorneys Lynn Schiffman and Brittany Beckner prosecuted the case.

Twyena Thomas guilty of murdering her 28-month-old son

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday night (Aug. 22) found Twyena Thomas guilty of causing her 28-month-old son’s death through blunt-force trauma injuries to the child’s head.

Thomas, 29, was convicted as charged of the second-degree murder of Chase Thomas in the Kenner apartment he shared with his mother and three siblings. He stopped breathing on Sept. 30, 2017. His severely emaciated body weighed a mere 15 pounds.

Although Chase was malnourished and dehydrated, his death was caused by blunt-force trauma to the head. According to an expert in pediatric child abuse, Chase was the victim of “child torture,” which includes psychological, emotional and physical abuse and starvation.

The jury, which was seated Tuesday, deliberated just over a half-hour. Judge Danyelle Taylor of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Thomas on Sept. 30.

Assistant District Attorneys Matthew Whitworth and Jennifer Voss prosecuted the case.

Week roundup: New Orleans man pleads to narcotics offense during trial, Honduran man convicted of molesting child

Two Jefferson Parish juries were seated this week for two unrelated trials, with one returning a guilty verdict against a man accused of sexually abusing a child and the other never getting to deliberate because the defendant pleaded guilty as charged.

Louisiana vs. Tyran Jones

Tyran Jones, 26, of New Orleans, received a 20-year prison sentence Wednesday night after he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute heroin and of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana and resisting an officer.

The state presented nine witnesses to jurors and was resting its case when Jones pleaded guilty as charged.

On Jan. 23, 2018, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office narcotics agents arrested Jones on Jefferson Highway near Causeway Boulevard after observing him engaged in a drug transaction, according to trial testimony.

The agents found marijuana on his person and in his car, along with a loaded pistol in his vehicle. After transporting Jones following his arrest, deputies found cocaine and heroin where he was seated in the police unit, according to trial testimony.

Jurors were shown evidence from his cell phone that proved he was engaged in illegal narcotics sales and that he possessed the firearm. He was barred from possessing guns because of previous robbery and narcotics convictions in New Orleans.

After Jones admitted his guilt, Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Jones to 20 years for the firearm charge, 15 years for the cocaine charge on a double bill and 20 years for the heroin charge. Judge Faulkner also sentenced Jones to six months resisting an officer and 15 days for the marijuana offense. He ran the sentences concurrently.

Assistant District Attorneys Brittany Beckner and Laura Schneidau prosecuted the case.

Louisiana vs. Edin Melgar

On Thursday night, a jury deliberated about 15 minutes before convicting Edin Melgar, 38, a native of Honduras who lived in Metairie, as charged of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13 and indecent behavior with a juvenile.

Both offenses involved a child who was between the ages of nine and 11 when the abuse ended in September 2018. The child, her mother and their pastor reported the abuse to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 28, 2018, leading to Melgar’s arrest. According to trial testimony, the child disclosed that Melgar threatened to harm her if she told anyone.

Jurors heard that at the time of his arrest, Melgar was wanted in South Carolina on charges of raping a child in that state in 2009. That victim testified Thursday.

Judge Scott Schlegel of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Melgar on Aug. 19.

Assistant District Attorneys Zachary Popovich and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.

Kenner man sentenced to 40 years for two Metairie kidnapping attempts

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (July 22) sentenced Joseph Picard to 40 years in prison for trying to kidnap a teenage girl and a woman from Metairie streets on June 15, 2017.

Following a two-day trial last month, Picard, 42, of Kenner, was convicted as charged by a Jefferson Parish jury of two counts of attempted second-degree kidnapping. The jury deliberated about 35 minutes in finding Picard guilty. The jury was unanimous on both counts

On Monday, after hearing impact testimony from the 28-year-old victim, Judge Henry Sullivan of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Picard to 20 years for each second-degree kidnapping count. He ran the sentences consecutively. In explaining his sentencing decision, Judge Sullivan noted the undue risk that Picard would commit more crimes and that he is in need of correctional treatment.

Assistant District Attorneys Lindsay Truhe and Zachary Popovich prosecuted the case.

Nakesia Washington pleads guilty to stealing from 2018 Essence Festival tourists

A Jefferson Parish judge on Wednesday (July 3) gave Nakesia Washington a 15-year sentence after she admitted to stealing money from almost 100 people who paid her to arrange their travel packages to New Orleans’ Essence Festival last year.

Washington, 42, of Harvey, who was the sole owner of OBL Travel in Marrero, pleaded guilty as charged to theft of U.S. currency valued at $25,000 or greater from 98 victims listed in the amended bill of information the state filed in court Wednesday. All the victims live out of state; a dozen of them provided letters that were read aloud in court as impact testimony in which they expressed anger over how Washington ruined their festival plans and how they suffered financially.

In accepting the plea, Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court gave Washington a 15-year prison sentence. Judge Kovach then suspended six of those years, meaning Washington’s prison term will be nine years. Of the six-year balance, Washington will serve three years on active probation, during which she must pay restitution to the victims, the judge ordered.

Judge Kovach set a restitution hearing for July 11 to determine the amount she owes the victims.

Washington accepted money from customers to arrange for their hotel reservations, VIP party passes, concert tickets, travel insurance and other festival-related purposes, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Her customers traveled to New Orleans only to learn that, in some cases, they had no hotel reservations or services for which they paid.

Washington deposited more than $240,000 into her business bank account and provided some of the services her customers sought. She also used that account to pay for an array of personal activities, from restaurants to rental car payments and gasoline to shopping trips, Sheriff’s Office economic crimes detectives found.

The Sheriff’s Office investigated the case with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Service.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Voss prosecuted the case.

 

 

New Orleans man convicted of violating protective order – a second time

A Jefferson Parish jury on Tuesday (June 25) deliberated approximately 20 minutes in finding Reginald Raymond guilty as charged of violating a protective order with previous convictions.

Raymond, 55, of New Orleans, was under court order issued in August 2018 to stay away from a woman. He violated that order the first time in September 2018, leading to his pleading guilty to that offense in December 2018.

Despite that, on Jan. 2, 2019, Raymond showed up at the woman’s house, leading her to notify the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy. He fled before the deputy arrived.

Two days later, a detective visited the woman to follow up on the investigation when the detective smelled cigarette smoke and heard music coming from the woman’s shed. According to trial testimony, the detective found Raymond hiding inside.

The woman declined to testify during the trial. Without victim testimony, the prosecutors relied solely on the evidence presented by law enforcement officers and court records to prove the charge.

Judge Nancy Miller of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Raymond on July 15.

Assistant District Attorneys John Ransone and Christina Fisher prosecuted the case.

Week roundup: Juries render guilty verdicts in JP, Kenner narcotics cases

Jefferson Parish juries this week rendered guilty verdicts in three narcotics cases, including that of a Kenner man who was booked with selling heroin to another man who overdosed.

Matthew Locicero, 31, was convicted as charged Thursday night (June 27) of distribution of heroin and obstruction of justice in connection with a Sept. 8, 2018 incident. Kenner police booked Locicero after learning he sold $40 worth of heroin to a 53-year-old man who collapsed outside a strip mall in the 4000 block of Williams Boulevard.

Locicero then concealed evidence of the crime by disposing the needle and other items in a trash can. That act led to the obstruction of justice conviction.

Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Locicero on July 10.

Assistant District Attorneys Laura Schneidau and Richard Olivier prosecuted the case.

Jefferson man guilty of cocaine dealing, flight from JPSO

Meanwhile, a Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday night (June 26) convicted Charles A. Lane Jr., of being a crack cocaine dealer who led narcotics agents on a high-speed pursuit through Metairie that ended with a fiery crash.

Lane, 35, of Jefferson, was convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine 28 grams or greater, possession of methamphetamine, aggravated flight and criminal damage valued at more than $1,000 but less than $50,000.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office narcotics detectives investigated Lane after learning he would be going to a motel in the 2400 block of Clearview Parkway with narcotics about 1 a.m., on April 12, 2018.

In the parking lot, deputies used their police units with emergency lights activated to box in Lane’s Chevrolet Tahoe, according to trial evidence. Attempting to flee, Lane rammed a police unit and escaped the motel parking lot, leading deputies on a pursuit through Metairie during which he disregarded traffic signals and traveled upwards of 75 mph in a 35 mph zone.

The pursuit ended near Lane’s apartment in the 2900 block of Burns Street. He lost control of his SUV and struck a parked vehicle. He then rammed a second JPSO vehicle, causing it to catch fire. The deputies found seven grams of white powder on Lane’s body and another 28 grams in his apartment.

Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Lane on July 18.

Assistant District Attorneys Brittney Beckner and Tucker Wimberly prosecuted the case.

Methamphetamine dealer convicted

Separately, Shawn Clark, 43, of Marrero, was sentenced Thursday (June 27) to 10 years in prison two days after a jury convicted him of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Clark’s conviction stems from a traffic stop initiated by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office on Westwood Drive in Marrero on Jan. 20, 2019. The deputies smelled marijuana in the car, arrested him and then found a pill bottle containing the methamphetamine, according to trial testimony.

Judge Frank Brindisi of the 24th Judicial District Court presided over the two-day trial that ended Tuesday (June 25) and sentenced Clark. A multiple bill hearing is scheduled for July 15.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.