A Metairie woman pleaded guilty Monday morning (June 20) to participating in the death of Jaren Lockhart, the French Quarter exotic dancer who was fatally stabbed in a Kenner home four years ago before her body was dismembered and her body parts were discarded along the Mississippi Gulf Coast by the two killers.
One year and one day after her ex-boyfriend Terry Speaks was convicted for his role in the same crime, Margaret Sanchez, 32, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. She was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Lockhart, 22, the mother of a 3-year-old child, died on June 6, 2012, after agreeing to leave her French Quarter job in the early morning hours with Sanchez and Speaks. The trio went to the home that Sanchez and Speaks shared in the 2000 block of Connecticut Avenue, near Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, where Speaks and Sanchez killed Lockhart.
“After consulting with Ms. Lockhart’s family, it was decided that the negotiated plea agreement was in the best interests of all parties involved,” Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul D. Connick, Jr. said. “Out of respect for Ms. Lockhart and her family, I will not comment further on the case or the evidence.”
Members of Lockhart’s family, along with numerous law enforcement officers from Kenner and Mississippi who were involved in the investigation, were present in the courtroom when Sanchez pleaded guilty.
“Words cannot express the pain her family and friends have endured since the murder,” Donna Kulick, guardian of Ms. Lockhart’s daughter, said in impact testimony.
She said the girl still cries over the loss of her mother, and that their family is “forever broken.”
“This will have a huge impact on her for the rest of her life,” Kulick testified.
In accepting the plea agreement, Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court, who presided over both criminal cases, sentenced Sanchez to 40 years for manslaughter, 40 years for obstruction of justice and 20 years for the charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The three sentences are the maximum for the respective charges. Judge Grefer ran the sentences concurrently.
Sanchez was scheduled to stand trial beginning July 11 on charges of second-degree murder, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Speaks, 43, was convicted as charged on June 19, 2015, of second-degree murder, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He is serving two life sentences at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. The first of those life sentences was handed down for the second degree murder.
After initially sentencing Speaks to 40 years in prison for obstruction of justice, Judge Grefer ruled on Jan. 22 that Speaks is a quadruple felony offender under Louisiana’s habitual offender law. Judge Grefer then handed down the second life sentence.
Sanchez has been held in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna since May 2014, when the Kenner Police Department arrested her in connection with Lockhart’s death. She and Speaks were indicted by a Jefferson Parish grand jury on Aug. 14, 2014. She was unable to post a $1.5 million bond.
Sanchez’s last court appearance was Dec. 7, when Judge Grefer denied requests to dismiss the indictment and, alternatively, to move the trial out of the Jefferson Parish area. Her attorneys asserted the extraordinary pretrial publicity the case received by local news media made it difficult to seat a fair and impartial jury. However, her July 11 trial date was set that day, court records show.
Assistant District Attorneys Doug Freese and Tommy Block prosecuted both cases.