Tag: gretna police department

Gretna couple sentenced to decades in prison for molesting three girls

A Gretna couple convicted last month of sexually abusing three juvenile girls has been sentenced to prison.

Elvin Villafranca, 40, and Argentina Mesa, 54, were sentenced Monday (April 16) to 60 years and 35 years, respectively, for their March 20 convictions of abusing the girls in their Newton Street home in 2013 and 2014.

The Gretna Police Department investigation began in November 2014, after detectives learned that a 7-year-old girl was molested while being babysat at the couple’s home. For this victim, Villafranca was convicted of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13 and received a 25-year prison sentence.

The victim’s mother later asked a relative whether she had contact with Mesa and Villafranca. That victim disclosed she was sexually abused by the couple at age 13, after the couple gave her alcohol to drink during a sleepover, according to evidence presented at trial.

In connection with this second victim, Villafranca was convicted of attempted forcible rape and was sentenced to 10 years, and Mesa was convicted of sexual battery and was sentenced to 10 years.

A third victim came forward saying she, too, was sexually abused at the Newton Street residence when she was 9 years old. For this, Villafranca and Mesa were convicted of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13 and received a 25-year sentences.

After hearing impact testimony from the mothers of two of the victims and denying post-verdict motions, Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court handed down the sentences. He ran them consecutively, citing the fact that the crimes involved three separate victims and that anything less would deprecate the seriousness of the crimes.

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

Gretna couple convicted of sexually abusing three juvenile girls

A Gretna couple was convicted Tuesday night (March 20) of molesting three juvenile girls, including a teenager who was given alcohol before she was sexually abused while in a drunken state.

Both Elvin Villafranca, 40, and Argentina Mesa, 54, were convicted of sexual battery counts for the crimes that occurred at their home in 2013 and 2014. Additionally, Villafranca was convicted of the attempted forcible rape of a 13-year-old girl, a responsive verdict, and Mesa was acquitted of being a principal to forcible rape involving the same victim.

“These are three victims, essentially three cases crammed into one case because of a common denominator: Mesa and Villafranca,” Assistant District Attorney Laura Schneidau, who prosecuted with Emily Booth, told jurors in closing argument.

The Gretna Police Department began its investigation in November 2014, after it learned that a 7-year-old girl was molested while being babysat at a Newton Street residence, according to evidence presented during the trial.

That victim’s mother initiated the investigation after seeing a matter of sexual nature on the child’s electronic tablet. Investigators learned that Villafranca inappropriately touched the victim, leading to his conviction of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13.

The mother of that victim later encountered a juvenile relative, who also had contact with Mesa and Villafranca, leading to the child’s disclosure that in November 2013, when she was 13 years old, she had been sexually abused at the couple’s Newton Street residence.

That second victim asserted that, during a sleepover, she was given alcohol and was not allowed to leave. For that victim, Villafranca was convicted of attempted forcible rape, and Mesa was convicted of sexual battery.

Another victim disclosed that she, too, was abused at the couple’s Newton Street residence when she was 9 years old. For this, Villafranca and Mesa were convicted as charged of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13 for this offense.

After a six-day trial, the jury deliberated almost six hours Tuesday before returning its verdicts. Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Mesa and Villafranca on April 16.

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

Gary Francois sentenced to life for Xmas Eve Oakwood Center mall murder

Gary Francois was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday (May 18), for killing a man in the Oakwood Center mall amid throngs of last-minute Christmas Eve shoppers in 2014.

Francois, 28, of Marrero, received the sentence for his March 23 conviction of the second-degree murder of James Vaughn, 24, of Harvey.

Vaughn had just completed a transaction at an athletic shoe store when Francois, who was waiting and watching from the business’s entrance, quickly walked inside, pulled a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol from his pants and opened fire.

The gunfire triggered pandemonium among shoppers, who ran for cover or fled the mall screaming.

Francois shot Vaughn four times. The first two bullets struck him in the back and hand. Francois then stood over the injured man and shot him twice more in the face.

Francois then fled the mall through a woman’s apparel store. Aided by an off-duty New Orleans policeman who witnessed much of the shooting, Jefferson Parish deputies and Gretna officers pursued Francois through adjacent residential neighborhoods before capturing him.

The Jefferson Parish jury rejected Francois’ insanity defense, finding he knew the difference between right and wrong when he killed Vaughn.

Vaughn’s mother, Kisha Vaughn, told the court in impact testimony Thursday that the youngest of her four children was at the mall purchasing her Christmas gift when he was killed.

“This was a senseless, selfish act. It has really shattered my life,” Ms. Vaughn testified.

After rejecting post-trial defense motions and hearing impact testimony from Vaughn’s mother and Francois’ mother, who apologized to Vaughn’s family, 24th Judicial District Court Judge Lee Faulkner handed down the sentence.

Life in prison without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence is the mandatory punishment for the charge under Louisiana law.

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

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Gretna man convicted of producing child pornography while sexually abusing 1-year-old girl

A Gretna man was found guilty Tuesday night (May 16), of using his cell phone to take videos and photographs of himself sexually abusing a toddler.

Roy Dixon Jr., 26, was convicted as charged of two counts of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13 and one count of production of pornography involving juveniles under the age of 13. The victim, who is not being identified, was a 1-year-old girl when Dixon abused her.

Dixon was 21 years old when the Gretna Police Department arrested him on Jan. 26, 2013. Earlier that day, a 21-year-old Algiers man Dixon met through a website personals ad visited Dixon at his Gretna home for a sex encounter. Afterward, while Dixon was out of the room, the visitor scrolled through Dixon’s cell phone and found an illegal video. The visitor fled with the device and alerted the New Orleans Police Department’s 4th District in Algiers.

New Orleans police seized the phone and referred the man to Gretna police, leading to Dixon’s arrest a short time later. While in a holding cell at Gretna police headquarters, detective Jeff Laborie overheard Dixon crying and speaking to himself, referring to himself as “stupid” and saying he should have deleted the videos.

Dixon later confessed to detective Sgt. Louis Alvarez, during an interview that was video recorded and shown to the jury on Tuesday. Dixon told the detective he created the images at the request of a man named Brad, whom he said he met at a West Bank bookstore.

Dixon asserted he shared the videos with the man via text messages. But he otherwise denied harming or raping the child.

Detective Stephen Villere, who supervises the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office’s Digital Forensics Unit, found 14 illicit photographs and three videos on Dixon’s laptop computer and cell phone. All images were taken on Dixon’s phone, in July and August of 2012, and transferred to the laptop, Villere testified.

Dixon’s defense team denied the charges. Dixon’s mother testified in her son’s defense, accusing police of coercing the confession. She also asserted that someone else created the incriminating images.

The jury of five women and seven men deliberated a half hour in reaching its verdict. Judge Stephen Enright of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Dixon on June 15.

Assistant District Attorneys Blair Constant and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.

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New Orleans man gets 40-year sentence in Gretna pharmacy robbery

A New Orleans man was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Tuesday (March 14), after he pleaded guilty to robbing a Gretna pharmacy.

Royal Stevens, 40, pleaded guilty as charged to four counts of armed robbery with a firearm, one count for each of the four victims who were in the business at the time he committed the crime.

He was one of two masked gunmen who entered the pharmacy in the 500 block of Lafayette Street about 5:25 p.m., on May 15, 2015. Stevens removed a semiautomatic pistol from his pants waistband, and the other gunman did the same, yelling, “This is a hold-up! Give me all the money and the drugs!”

Stevens and his cohort ordered employees to fill boxes they carried with hydrocodone, oxycodone and other prescription medications. Stevens ordered the employees into a restroom and told them to wait there until they were gone. The gunmen then fled the business.

The Gretna Police Department learned that Stevens had been in the pharmacy the day before, casing it in preparing the robbery. Security images helped detectives identify Stevens as one of the robbers.

Detectives also concluded that Stevens used his silver Ford Mustang to case the pharmacy and to rob it the following day. Detectives also located bags of stolen narcotics at his apartment.

In accepting the guilty plea, Judge June Berry Darensburg of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Stevens to 40 years for each of the four victims and ran the sentences concurrently. Stevens will not receive benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

A second suspect was booked but not charged because of insufficient evidence.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Vanderhooft and Lindsay Truhe prosecuted the case.

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New Orleans man convicted of marijuana distribution from Gretna hotel

A New Orleans East man was convicted as charged in Jefferson Parish Thursday night (Nov. 18) of possession with intent to distribute the 149 grams of marijuana he left behind in a Gretna motel room earlier this year.

Raymond Allen, 28, rented a room in the 100 block of the Westbank Expressway for one night on May 5, 2016. The following morning, he left the hotel to run errands, planning to return to his room before the 11 a.m. check-out time.

He was unable to make it back in time. A housekeeper who was cleaning the room discovered the marijuana and notified the hotel management, which in turn called the Gretna Police Department.

Allen returned to the hotel about 12:30 p.m., that day, planning to ask the manager if he could obtain his belongings. Instead, he was greeted by police officers who were investigating the marijuana.

“Y’all are here because of the weed in my room,” Allen told the officers, admitting later that he was in the process of selling marijuana to help himself financially. Officers also found more than $900 in cash in his pocket during the arrest.

The officers found five sandwich bags stuffed with marijuana in a plastic grocery bag that was set atop the room’s dresser. The officers also found paraphernalia associated with marijuana distribution.

Testifying during the daylong trial on Thursday, Allen denied the charges, saying he purchased the marijuana in bulk to save money, and that he bought it only for personal use. He said he lived with his mother in eastern New Orleans at the time and so he rented the Gretna motel room to have private time with his girlfriend and not as a location from which he would sell marijuana.

A 12-member Jefferson Parish jury deliberated about 40 minutes before returning with its verdict just before 10 p.m. Allen faces a punishment of five years to 30 years in prison, with the benefit of probation, parole or suspended sentence.

Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Allen on Dec. 1. It is within the judge’s discretion to suspend the imposition of the sentence and place the subject on probation.

Assistant District Attorneys Michael Smith and Angel Manzanares prosecuted the case.

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New Orleans man pleads guilty to Gretna rape and burglary for 20-year sentence

A New Orleans man was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Monday (July 25), after he pleaded guilty as charged to raping a woman in her Gretna home before stealing some of her belongings.

Tyrone Brown, 26, pleaded guilty as charged to forcible rape and aggravated burglary in connection with the July 4, 2015 crime. He also will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life after he is released from prison.

About 9 a.m. on the day of the crime, Brown followed the 32-year-old woman home from the French Quarter bar where she had gone the night before. The woman, who was intoxicated, went into her home and neglected to lock the door behind her.

When she emerged from her restroom moments later, Brown was inside of the house. That’s when he forcibly raped her. She blacked out during the crime, she told the Gretna Police Department.

While the victim was unconscious, Brown stole her laptop computer, ATM card and cash. He went to a business on North Broad Street in New Orleans, where he solicited another man to try to use the victim’s ATM card to make a purchase.

Police used surveillance video footage from that business and the French Quarter to develop Brown as a suspect. He was arrested and provided a partial confession.

Calling Brown “a serial rapist” because of another rape conviction, Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court accepted the plea and sentenced him to 20 years for the forcible rape and 15 years for the aggravated burglary. She ran the sentences concurrently. Brown will serve the prison time without the benefit of probation, parole or suspended sentence.

Brown then pleaded guilty to being double offender under the state’s habitual offender law and sentenced him to 15 years, which is run concurrently. His previous conviction was for theft of a motor vehicle in 2009 in New Orleans, for which he received five years of probation.

A panel of potential jurors was assembled outside Judge Kovach’s courtroom on Monday morning, for the start of jury selection, when Brown agreed to plead guilty.

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Seth Shute prosecuted the case.

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Gretna man sentenced to maximum 40 years for raping teen

A Gretna man who claimed he falsely confessed to sexually abusing a teenaged girl in part because of the “high-grade marijuana” he smoked before meeting with a police detective was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Thursday (June 16).

Omar Duplessis, 31, was convicted as charged of forcible rape, for abusing the girl at least three times beginning when she was 13 and ending the on day before Thanksgiving in 2014, when she was 16.

In addition to receiving the maximum punishment for forcible rape, Duplessis also will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life after his release from prison, 24th Judicial District Judge Henry Sullivan ordered.

Judge Sullivan, who handed down the guilty verdict on May 27 because Duplessis waived a trial by jury, rejected Duplessis’ request for a new trial on Thursday. In handing down the maximum 40-year sentence, Judge Sullivan cited Duplessis’ “deliberate cruelty” in raping on “multiple occasions,” and of using force during the rapes to prevent the victim from resisting.

The victim told her mother about the rapes, but the mother did nothing, according to trial testimony, when the mother said in court that she didn’t believe her daughter’s accusations. The victim then disclosed the abuse to her uncle, who contacted the Gretna Police Department and led to Duplessis’ arrest.

Duplessis, one of nine witnesses who testified during the two-day trial, initially denied the accusation. In a second recorded statement, he told the detective that he was in his bed intoxicated when the girl attempted to have sex with him.

In the third and final recorded statement, he admitted to raping the girl “at least four times, maybe five, maybe, like once every – I don’t know.”

During the trial, however, he said he was at his job as a longshoreman on New Orleans’ riverfront when he learned of the rape accusation. He testified he didn’t immediately go to the Gretna police headquarters, but then “smoked a blunt of high-grade marijuana” before meeting with the detective to help him relax. He asserted that in part led to a false confession.

The girl’s mother, whose name is being withheld to protect the victim’s identity, pleaded guilty on Feb. 25 to failure to report the commission of certain felonies, meaning the rape. She received two years of active probation, because she did not disclose to authorities that Duplessis sexually abused her daughter. She testified for Duplessis during his trial.

Assistant District Attorneys Rhonda Goode-Douglas and Marko Marjanović prosecuted the case.

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Gretna man who claimed false confession convicted of forcibly raping teenage girl

A Gretna man who testified during his trial that the “high-grade marijuana” he smoked moments before meeting with a detective was among the reasons he falsely confessed to raping a teenage girl was convicted on Friday (May 27) of sexually abusing the victim.

Omar Duplessis, 31, faces five years to 40 years in prison for his conviction of forcible rape. He was found guilty of raping the teen beginning when she was 13 and ending the on day before Thanksgiving in 2014, when she was 16. The victim, now 17, testified that Duplessis used force when he raped her numerous times.

Judge Henry Sullivan of the 24th Judicial District Court rendered the verdict, because Duplessis waived a trial by jury. “The court finds the State of Louisiana has carried its burden,” Judge Sullivan said in announcing the verdict immediately following closing arguments. “The court finds Omar Duplessis guilty as charged of forcible rape.”

Duplessis, who had awaited trial while free on a $100,000 bond, was remanded to the parish jail until his sentencing hearing on June 16.

The girl’s mother, whose name is being withheld to protect the victim’s identity, pleaded guilty on Feb. 25 to failure to report the commission of certain felonies, meaning the rape. She received two years of active probation, because she did not disclose to authorities that Duplessis sexually abused her daughter. She and her mother – the victim’s grandmother – testified for the defense.

The victim twice told her mother about the abuse, but the mother did nothing, according to testimony. The victim then disclosed the abuse to her uncle on Dec. 2, 2014, the uncle testified. Police were notified, and Duplessis was arrested the same day.

Duplessis initially denied the charge, telling Gretna Police Department Detective Jerry Broome that the girl falsely accused him of rape out of resentment. However, in subsequent interviews that were videotaped, Duplessis confessed to Broome that he had had sex with the girl.

In his second statement, he told the detective that he was “drunk and stoned,” and watching television in his bed when the girl got into bed with him, disrobed and “kind of” had sex. He said he told the girl to stop and leave. He said it was the only time it happened, and he denied the girl’s accusations that they’d had sex before.

He opened his third recorded statement saying, “I’m hurting, and my life is over,” he told the detective. “This hasn’t been the first time,” he confessed. “At least four times, maybe five, maybe, like once every – I don’t know.”

Duplessis testified on Friday that he was at his job as a longshoreman on New Orleans’ riverfront when he learned of the accusations against him. He said he did not immediately go to police but used marijuana beforehand to help him relax.

“I smoked a blunt of some high-grade marijuana,” he testified under cross-examination. He blamed the marijuana, long work hours during the days preceding the police interview and Broome for what he asserted was a false confession.

The victim disclosed the rapes at the Jefferson Children’s Advocacy Center and to Dr. Jamie Jackson, an expert in child sexual abuse pediatrics at the Audrey Hepburn Children at Risk Evaluation (CARE) Center at Children’s Hospital. “She actually talked about trying to fight, about being pinned down,” Jackson testified.

The victim testified she was 13 when the first rape happened, after school and when she was home alone with Duplessis. The rape happened frequently, she said. “Sometimes it happened at night. Sometimes it happened during the day,” she testified.

Assistant District Attorneys Rhonda Goode-Douglas and Marko Marjanovic prosecuted the case.

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