More than six months after he was convicted at his trial, a West Bank man was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison Monday (Feb. 1), in connection with the 2013 slayings of two Southern University students who were gunned down in Harvey’s Woodmere subdivision.
Tavis C. Joseph, 22, was convicted July 30 of two counts of second-degree murder in the Aug. 13, 2013 deaths of Nikiayah Westerfield and Dave Harrison. The victims were both 19 and college students when they were killed during what authorities say was an ambush during a marijuana sale in the 4000 block of Paige Janette Drive.
Chief Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court handed down the mandatory life sentences after denying Joseph’s request for a new trial. Regan ran the sentences concurrently.
Authorities say Joseph was one of four suspects who arranged to purchase an ounce of marijuana valued at $350 from the victims, according to evidence presented in court. One of those four suspects was never identified, while three have been convicted.
Irvin Harris, 23, of Harvey, was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder, illegal possession of a stolen firearm and conspiracy to obstruct justice in December 2014 and was sentenced to two mandatory life sentences in prison.
Jerremy Coleman, 22, of Waggaman, pleaded guilty last year to two counts of manslaughter in the case and received a 30-year prison sentence. Coleman, who was armed with a stolen Kimber .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol, was left partially paralyzed when he was shot during the incident. Detectives say that Harrison was armed with a pistol and began shooting after the suspects opened fire.
Meanwhile, Harris’ parents, Edward Harris, 40, and Kanetra T. Whyte, 38, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice. They were accused of trying to help their son beat the murder charges.
Whyte was sentenced to three years of probation, while Edward Harris was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
At the time he attempted to help his son, Edward Harris was serving a 45-year sentence in a state prison for his conviction of a double homicide in Marrero in 1994.
Assistant District Attorneys Doug Freese and Thomas Sanderson prosecuted the cases, which were investigated by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.