Matthew Flugence, the Marrero man accused of killing 6-year-old Ahlittia North before discarding her body in a residential trash can that he rolled to a Harvey curb two years ago, pleaded guilty as charged to first-degree murder on Thursday (March 24), accepting a life sentence in prison in a plea deal that removed the possibility he one day could die by lethal injection.
Flugence, 22, had been charged with first-degree murder, and the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office planned to seek the death penalty. His guilty plea, which removes the death penalty, was negotiated with his public defenders, leading to Thursday’s unscheduled hearing before 24th Judicial District Court Judge Adrian Adams.
“There will always be an Ahlittia-size hole in my heart, in my life,” her mother Lisa North testified during the plea hearing.
The North family agreed to the plea arrangement and was thankful for it, District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. said.
“This outcome gives peace to the Ahilittia’s family, who have been spared the painful experience of reliving the horrible events during the trial,” Connick Jr. said. “Justice has been served.”
Capital cases mandate a high level of scrutiny at the appellate level, meaning the review at higher courts can last for years. This plea ends it. As part of his plea, Flugence agreed to waive his appeal rights and spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of probation, parole or suspended sentence.
Flugence admitted he abducted North from her mother’s apartment in the 2900 block of Destrehan Avenue in Harvey’s Woodmere subdivision on July 13, 2013.
Her disappearance set off a massive search by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and other agencies that ended three days later, when the child’s body was found wrapped in plastic bags and a blanket. Her remains were discarded in a residential garbage can left along Destrehan Avenue near where her mother lived, “to be picked up as though she was not a human being,” Lisa North testified.
“She died terrified and alone at the hands of an evil monster,” Lisa North testified.
North, who would have turned 9 on March 3, was stabbed twice in the neck and twice in the abdomen.
Flugence, whose uncle was North’s stepfather, emerged as the suspect and was arrested three days after she disappeared. Police found him walking alone on Victory Drive in Westwego. He was carrying a knife, police said at the time.
He confessed, asserting that the child initiated sexual contact behind an apartment building on Destrehan Avenue, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. After the encounter he alleged happened, he told police, he snapped, stabbed her and watched her die.
Lisa North said Flugence “showed no grace or mercy” throughout the ordeal, including his baseless accusations of what he alleged her daughter did. “But far worse than that, he shows no remorse,” she testified.
In connection with the plea arrangement, the District Attorney’s Office also dismissed charges of aggravated rape, unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling, two counts of battery on a corrections officer and resisting arrest by force or violence. The rape charge did not involve Ahlittia.
Flugence’s brother, Russell Flugence, 24, of Marrero, pleaded guilty to a charge of failure to report a certain felony in 2014 and was sentenced to one year in prison. He admitted his brother told him he killed North, but he didn’t report it to police.
Assistant District Attorneys Sunny Funk and Doug Freese prosecuted the cases.