As a jury was waiting to hear opening statements in his trial, a West Bank man admitted on Wednesday morning (July 13), to fatally stabbing his longtime friend during an argument in a Harvey apartment five years ago.
Melvin Billiot, 52, pleaded guilty as charged to manslaughter and obstruction of justice in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence. He admitted he killed Richard Barrios, who died from a single stab wound to his upper chest on July 19, 2011.
The men, both intoxicated, argued in the apartment they shared in the 4200 block of La Couture Drive, before Billiot stabbed his friend. Manslaughter generally is defined as a homicide carried out in the heat of passion or done where there’s no specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm.
“I stabbed Richard, but I didn’t mean to kill him,” Billiot wrote on guilty plea forms.
Billiot then removed the kitchen knife, cleaned it and returned it to a drawer, and attempted to clean the blood from his floor. Those actions lead to his being charged with obstruction of justice for tampering with evidence to attempt to distort the criminal investigation.
Detectives gathered several knives from the apartment, and Barrios’ DNA was located on one of them, leading authorities to say it was used in the homicide. Deputies also used the leuco-crystal violet substance at the crime scene and found the presumptive presence of blood throughout the apartment.
“Richard was supposed to be Melvin’s friend,” Barrios’ sister Santa Marie Cardenal told the court in impact testimony. “Richard and Melvin grew up together. You don’t do that to a friend.”
Billiot and his sister, Pamela Billiot Leblanc, initially were booked by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office with obstruction of justice. They both asserted Barrios fell and said nothing about the stabbing until emergency medical technicians found the stab wound.
Billiot was later booked with the homicide. He confessed to stabbing Barrios when questioned the Sheriff’s Office.
Leblanc was never formally charged in connection with the crime and later died following an illness.
A jury was seated late Tuesday night and was in a room adjacent to the courtroom waiting to hear opening statements when Billiot pleaded guilty.
Assistant District Attorneys Rhonda Goode-Douglas and Marko Marjanovic prosecuted the case.