Month: October 2016

Joshua Every indicted for first-degree murder of Raising Cane’s manager Taylor Friloux

Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul D. Connick, Jr. announced today that a grand jury has returned an indictment for first-degree murder against Joshua Every for the death of Taylor Friloux.

Ms. Friloux, 21, a manager at a Raising Cane’s restaurant in Kenner, died from injuries she received on June 29, when she was stabbed numerous times during an armed robbery of the business.

“After meeting with Ms. Friloux’s family and consulting with my staff, I have decided my office will seek the death penalty,” Mr. Connick said.

The grand jury separately returned an eight-count indictment charging for offenses associated with the Raising Cane’s incident:

  • Every, 23, of LaPlace, two counts of armed robbery, one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, false imprisonment with a dangerous weapon, witness intimidation and obstruction of justice;
  • Gregory Donald, Jr., 19, of Kenner, second-degree murder of Ms. Friloux, two counts of armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, false imprisonment with a dangerous weapon, witness intimidation and obstruction of justice;
  • Mark Crocklen, Jr., 25, of LaPlace, second-degree murder of Ms. Friloux, two counts of armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, false imprisonment with a dangerous weapon, witness intimidation and obstruction of justice;
  • Ariana Runner, 22, of Reserve, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and obstruction of justice.

Because these are pending matters, there will be no further comment by this office.

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Convicted Marrero bank robber sentenced to 50 years in prison

A Marrero man who was convicted last month of robbing the same West Jefferson bank branch twice, about one year apart, has been sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Brandon Gray, 40, was convicted as charged by a Jefferson Parish jury on Sept. 22 of five counts of armed robbery, aggravated flight and two counts of aggravated assault. The five armed robbery counts represent the five bank employees he victimized during the two bank robberies.

With three of the victims sitting and the case detective Marc Macaluso seated in the front row of her courtroom, Judge Danyelle Taylor of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Gray on Wednesday (Oct. 19) to 50 years for each of the robbery victims, five years for the aggravated assault and six months for each of the aggravated flight charges.

The 50-year sentences are to be served without benefit of probation, parole or suspended sentence. Judge Taylor ran the sentences concurrently and told Gray that his “actions were malevolent in nature.”

One of the victims wrote a letter to the court as impact testimony, urging the judge to sentence Gray to the maximum punishment allowable. She noted “the tremendous impact” Gray’s crimes had on her and her coworkers, and that he had not been rehabilitated after serving prison time for a 1997 armed robbery, involving the carjacking of a 64-year-old Westwego man in front of his home.

The victim said she and coworkers twice had to endure Gray entering their workplace, leaving in his wake anxiety that employees continue to suffer despite knowing that he has been incarcerated. One employee no longer works in banks because of the robbery experience.

“Mr. Gray held a gun to my ribs and threatened to kill me,” the victim wrote.

Gray robbed the Iberia Bank branch on Barataria Boulevard in Marrero on Sept. 30, 2013 and got away with it until he returned to the bank a second time on Oct. 9, 2014, to rob it again, according to trial testimony.

As Gray entered the bank, using vulgar and threatening language and pointing a pistol at employees, a banker happened to be speaking on the phone with her husband, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office lieutenant. He immediately began broadcasting the robbery in progress over the police radio system, relaying to his fellow deputies details about the robber as soon as his wife relayed the details to him, according to testimony.

With that information, a deputy spotted Gray in his sports-utility vehicle stopped at a red light at a Marrero intersection. Noticing the deputy behind him, Gray became nervous and accelerated through the red light, leading deputies on a pursuit through Marrero, according to testimony.

Gray drove into the Lincolnshire subdivision, where he wrecked his SUV into a house on Constantine Street. He jumped out of the driver’s seat and ran around the rear of his SUV. The plastic grocery bag in which he carried the stolen cash snagged the rear bumper, ripping it open and spilling the bills on the lawn.

He then climbed over a side fence into the house’s back yard, where he turned and faced two deputies. He pointed a pistol at the deputies, one of whom opened fire, striking Gray once in his right leg, according to trial testimony.

Gray fled but was caught nearby. The two deputies are the victims in the aggravated flight and aggravated assault charges.

The weapon Gray used during the 2014 robbery was an air gun pellet pistol, leading his attorney to argue at trial that, among other things, he could not be convicted of armed robbery.

Judge Taylor noted Gray’s use of the pellet pistol. “No one should have to experience that,” Judge Taylor said, noting the victims’ testimony.

Gray, seated in a wheel chair because of the gunshot wound, said nothing during the sentencing hearing. His attorney’s requests for a new trial and post-verdict judgment of acquittal were denied.

Assistant District Attorneys Blair Constant and Thomas Sanderson prosecuted the case.

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Dexter Allen convicted of killing David Pence, son Nicholas in Metairie home

Dexter Allen of New Orleans, arrested last year in connection with the horrific execution of a man and his son in their Metairie home, faces spending the rest of his life in prison for his conviction on Monday (Oct. 17) of two counts of second-degree murder and 19 counts of simple burglary.

After hearing testimony over five days from almost 50 witnesses and seeing about 180 exhibits of evidence, a Jefferson Parish jury unanimously found that Allen, 18, used a stolen shotgun to execute David Pence, 56, and his son Nicholas Pence, 25, in the victims’ home just before midnight on April 22, 2015.

Allen, who traveled to Metairie in a sport-utility vehicle that he allegedly carjacked in New Orleans earlier that day, broke into 19 vehicles in the Pences’ neighborhood. He broke into David Pence’s Ford Mustang that was parked in the family’s driveway, and then slipped into the Pence home through a side door in hopes of stealing a purse that was visible from outside.

Allen killed the Pences with five shotgun blasts, according to testimony. David Pence was likely killed first, while he slept in the recliner chair from which he watched television almost nightly. A shotgun blast to his head probably killed him instantly, according to testimony. Nicholas Pence, who likely went to his father’s side after hearing the gunfire, appeared to have been forced to the ground before he was shot in the head.

Beth Pence was in her bed during the shooting, roused from sleep by the noise, she testified. She found her husband dead and her son dying and called 911 at 11:53 p.m., according to testimony. The jury heard a recording of her heart-rending call, including Nicholas Pence’s last breaths and a 911 dispatcher’s urging the woman to perform chest compressions to keep her son alive.

Judge Ray Steib of the 24th Judicial District Court set a Nov. 14 status hearing on Allen’s sentencing, which would be done at a later date. Because Allen was under age 18 at the time he killed the Pences, he cannot receive a mandatory life sentence in prison, which is the statutory punishment for second-degree murder under Louisiana law. Allen was 17 when he killed the Pences.

Judge Steib has the discretion to hand down either a sentence of life with the possibility of parole or life without parole, a decision he will make after hearing testimony and receiving evidence at a sentencing hearing. By law, Allen potentially could receive life with parole, meaning he would be eligible to apply for parole after serving 35 years of his sentence, provided certain criteria are met.

Allen denied killing the Pences, and there were no eyewitnesses to the homicides. However, he confessed to Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives William “Brad” Roniger and Thomas Gai that he and his girlfriend were in Metairie in a stolen vehicle, breaking into cars on the night in question.

Police found the shotgun hidden under Allen’s mother’s home in New Orleans. Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Emily Barrios, qualified as an expert in firearms and tool mark analysis, connected the spent shotgun shells in the Pence home to that shotgun. She testified she had “no doubt” that the shotgun found under Allen’s mother’s home was the murder weapon.

Laura Catilin Oliver of the Sheriff’s Office Regional DNA Laboratory, qualified as an expert in DNA analysis, testified that Allen’s genetic material was recovered from the shotgun’s stock, grip and trigger guard. The statistical probability that the DNA belonged to someone other than Allen is greater than only one in 100 billion, Oliver testified.

Two days after killing the Pences, Allen was arrested in eastern New Orleans. He led members of a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force on a vehicle pursuit that ended with his arrest after he jumped into the Industrial Canal at Interstate 10, according to testimony. Detectives found evidence in the stolen sports-utility vehicle and Allen’s mother’s home that was connected to some of the Metairie burglaries, according to testimony.

Detectives also found David Pence’s pharmacy card under the front passenger seat, where Allen sat after leaving Metairie following the homicides. That card was in Mrs. Pence’s purse, which was stolen from her kitchen countertop during the homicides, according to testimony.

Other evidence included residential security camera images of the burglars and traffic cameras through which detectives tracked the stolen SUV being driven to I-10 on Bonnabel Boulevard and back to New Orleans.

Allen’s attorney, who provided no witnesses, called the state’s case “100-percent circumstantial,” and argued that prosecutors had not proven that Allen killed the Pences.

The jury deliberated less than two hours before convicting Allen as charged of all counts. He still faces trial in New Orleans Criminal District Court for the carjacking and other offenses that occurred the day he killed the Pences and during the days that followed.

Allen’s girlfriend, Haraquon Degruy, 19, of New Orleans, awaits trial in Jefferson Parish on two counts of being principal to second-degree murder and 17 counts of simple burglary.

Assistant District Attorneys Seth Shute and Rachel Africk prosecuted the case.

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Marrero teen halts trial, pleads guilty to carjacking and gets 16-year sentence

A Marrero teenager whose DNA connected him to a carjacking outside a busy West Bank business abruptly ended his trial Thursday morning and pleaded guilty as charged.

After hearing his victim and deputies testify against him, Rockeen Jacks, 19, admitted on the second day of his trial his guilt of armed robbery using a firearm. He admitted he committed the Dec. 22, 2015 crime outside a convenience store in the 6200 block of the Westbank Expressway, at Ames Boulevard in Marrero.

In accepting the plea, Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Jacks to 16 years in prison: 10 years for the robbery, five years as a sentence enhancement because a gun was used in the crime and one year for an unrelated battery on a corrections officer for an incident in the parish jail in June.

The 64-year-old victim testified he purchased a plate of food in the store and was returning to his 2002 Nissan Altima in the parking lot about 4 p.m. That’s when Jacks, his head covered by the hoodie he wore as he lurked in the parking lot, approached the victim with a black semiautomatic pistol beside his leg.

Jacks repeatedly demanded the keys. The victim initially resisted, even as they stood “eye to eye, face to face,” the victim testified Wednesday.

An “old man” who witnessed the altercation told the victim to give the robber the keys, the victim testified. “Man, don’t let him shoot you out here for nothing,” the man told him before driving away, never to be identified. The victim surrendered the keys.

During his testimony, the victim was asked to describe the robber. “What did he look like? He’s sitting right there,” the victim replied, pointing to Jacks sitting nearby at the defense table.

Jacks drove away east on the Westbank Expressway. The victim called 911, initiating an investigation by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Two days later, on Christmas Eve 2015, the victim and his brother separately spotted the stolen car with two men inside, being driven north on Silver Lilly Lane in Marrero. The victim called 911 and followed the car, relating his whereabouts to the dispatcher until he lost it. He spotted it parked in the 900 block of DiMarco Drive – the same block where Jacks lived. Its occupants were gone. He called 911 again, reporting he found the car.

The Sheriff’s Office Regional DNA Laboratory later found Jacks’ DNA on a plastic water bottle in the car. His DNA profile was in a federal law enforcement database because of a previous conviction of battery on a welfare worker. When shown a photographic line-up that included Jacks’ photo, the victim positively identified him as the person who carjacked him.

Assistant District Attorneys Thomas Sanderson and Blair Constant prosecuted the case.

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Jerman Neveaux indicted for first-degree murder of JPSO Detective David Michel

Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul D. Connick Jr. announced today that a grand jury has returned an indictment for first-degree murder against Jerman Joseph Neveaux in the death of Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Detective David F. Michel Jr.

“We believe the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Detective Michel warrant the harshest penalty,” Mr. Connick said. “After consulting with my staff and Detective Michel’s family, I have decided that my office will seek the death penalty.”

Neveaux additionally was indicted on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm, two counts of resisting arrest by force or violence and one count of possession of a stolen firearm.

Because this is a pending matter, there will be no further comment by this office.

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Marrero man convicted of molesting two girls gets 25-year sentence

A Marrero man was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday (Oct. 12), for his conviction of sitting young girls on his lap in his home and touching them inappropriately.

Ricky Gros, 51, was convicted Sept. 14 of two counts of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13 and of indecent behavior with a juvenile. Both victims were 7 years old when the abuse began in 2006. The abuse continued for approximately four years.

Gros, who was acquainted with both girls, touched them inappropriately in his James Drive home, according to evidence presented during the trial. One of the victims testified that Gros had them sit on his lap as he sat on his sofa, where he gave them bubble gum before putting his hand in their pants.

The victims disclosed the abuse more than one year after the last incident occurred in 2009. Upon learning of the allegations, the mother of one of the victims notified the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in October 2010.

In a letter she wrote to the court as impact testimony, that victim expressed the shame and harmful effects she endured as a result of Gros’ behavior.

Judge June Berry Darensburg of the 24th Judicial District Court, who presided over the trial, sentenced Gros to 10 years in prison for the first count of sexual battery, 25 years for the second sexual battery count and 10 years for the indecent behavior with a juvenile count. She ran the sentences concurrently.

Gros also faces a lifetime of sex offender registration after he completes his prison sentence.

Assistant District Attorneys Josh Vanderhooft and Blair Constant prosecuted the case.

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Metairie man sentenced to 30 years in prison for raping teenager

A former Metairie resident who was convicted last month of raping a 14-year-old girl in her bed was sentenced on Thursday (Oct. 6) to 30 years in prison.

Marcus Harris, 40, was convicted Sept. 26 of the forcible rape, a crime carrying a sentence of up to 40 years in prison. He sexually assaulted the victim in February 2010.

The victim, now 21, testified during the trial that she was in bed when Harris entered the room, tickling her before forcibly raping her. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office recovered Harris’ seminal and epitheial DNA from her bed linens.

The victim reported the rape the following day at her school, setting in motion the investigation. However, shortly after the investigation began, Harris pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of second-degree battery of his then-19-year-old girlfriend.

Following a four-year prison sentence for that crime, Harris was charged with the forcible rape. He denied committing the rape, and his attorney argued that the victim planted the DNA evidence on her bed linens.

Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court, who presided over the case and handed down the sentence, previously denied defense motions for a new trial and post-verdict judgment of acquittal.

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.

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Bentel brothers sentenced to prison in synthetic narcotics distribution ring

A pair of brothers who ran parallel but separate drug distribution operations, including the largest synthetic narcotics distribution ring in Jefferson Parish that controlled all synthetic marijuana sales in East Jefferson for a period of time, began lengthy prison sentences on Monday (Oct. 3).

Henry Bentel, 35, of Metairie, was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Ronald Bentel, 36, of Folsom, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The crimes to which they pleaded guilty last month originate from their actions during a 2 ½-year period ending in July 2012. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office opened investigations into the Bentels, and into an unrelated synthetic narcotics operation based on the West Bank, after receiving reports that several people overdosed from ingesting the substances the Bentel organization and others manufactured and distributed.

The synthetic narcotics were sold in more than 90 locations in Jefferson Parish when the Sheriff’s Office investigation began, including The Rob Shop, a business belonging to the Bentels. Investigators seized more than $800,000 in cash from the Bentel organization upon arresting various suspects. Today, there are no such locations selling the products.

They were part of a criminal enterprise that imported chemicals from Canada and China to manufacture synthetic marijuana they named POW, which they sold through The Rob Shop and other retail outlets in Jefferson Parish.

Members of the enterprise manufactured the illegal substances in houses they rented in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. At the peak of their operation, the members manufactured about 300 pounds of their product every week. They sold POW for $10 per gram, or $20 for three grams.

Henry Bentel pleaded guilty on Sept. 12 to conspiracy to distribute controlled dangerous substances, three counts of distribution of cyclpropanoylindoles, one count of possession with intent to distribute cathinones, possession with intent to distribute naphtholyindoles, obstruction of justice and cruelty to juveniles. The cruelty charge stems from his allowing a juvenile to be present while he distributed a controlled dangerous substance.

Ronald Bentel pleaded guilty on Sept. 26, to racketeering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of money laundering over $20,000 and conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance.

Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court accepted the guilty pleas and handed down the sentences.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese prosecuted the cases.

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