Month: May 2017

Felon convicted of Jefferson Highway purse snatching

A Jefferson Parish man was convicted Monday morning (May 22) of knocking a woman to the ground while stealing her wallet and cell phone, and causing her to fracture her right hip.

Ronald Wallace, 48, was found guilty as charged of purse snatching, following a judge trial that lasted less than two hours.

The crime happened about 7 a.m., on Sept. 23. The victim, a 61-year-old woman, had just purchased donuts at a business in the 3300 block of Jefferson Highway, and was walking to her car in the parking lot when Wallace approached her from behind.

He told her something, and when she turned to see him behind her, Wallace forcibly grabbed her wallet and cell phone. During the struggle, the woman fell to the ground, injuring her hip.

Wallace fled on foot into the adjacent neighborhood on Brown Street. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office used a cell phone app to locate her phone and some of her belongings, which were recovered about two blocks from where Wallace stole them. Deputies canvasing the area recovered her wallet on Brown Street.

Within a week of the crime, the JPSO Regional DNA Laboratory identified Wallace’s genetic material on the wallet. Detectives were able to include Wallace’s mug shot in a photographic line-up, and the victim was able to identify her attacker.

Wallace had been released from state prison less than two months earlier for a conviction of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Detectives went to the address his parole officer had, eventually leading to Wallace’s arrest at the Jefferson Highway restaurant where he worked as a dishwasher.

Wallace waived a jury trial, leaving it to 24th Judicial District Judge Lee Faulkner to weigh the evidence in the case. Immediately following the state resting its case, Judge Faulkner rendered his verdict: guilty as charged. Wallace is scheduled to be sentenced on June 20.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese prosecuted the case.

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West Bank men convicted in Marrero double homicide

Two West Bank men were convicted Friday night (May 19) of killing a pair of half-brothers, who were gunned down in an ambush as they sat in a car on a residential Marrero street.

Jordan Hicks, 24, of Westwego, was convicted as charged of two counts of second-degree murder. Ernest Payne Jr., 28, of Marrero, was convicted of two counts of manslaughter, a responsive verdict.

They were convicted in the Aug. 12, 2012, deaths of Martin “Marty” Harry, 19, and Delanta “Dig” McCall, 21.

The victims were shot while in Harry’s 2003 Nissan Maxima, which Harry stopped in the 1600 block of Julie Street at Second Zion Street, in Marrero’s Acre Road public housing development.

According to witness testimony, gunmen in Julie Street behind Harry’s car opened fire, from near Payne’s white pickup truck. A bullet struck McCall in the left side of his head, killing him where he sat in the front passenger seat. Bullets struck driver Harry in the top of his head and the back of his neck, severing his spinal cord. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

Their cousin was in the back seat, sitting behind McCall. He was able to flee the car and later identified Hicks as the gunman who approached the car from the rear driver’s side. The cousin also identified Payne as being at the scene.

Beside Harry was an AK-47 rifle, and McCall had a pistol. Evidence showed the men legally purchased the firearms, which they fired at a gun range hours before they were killed. Deputies found three short videos of their being at the gun range on McCall’s cell phone, and they recovered paper targets in the trunk of Harry’s car.

Although numerous people were outside and near the shooting scene, none was voluntarily forthcoming with information, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Travis Eserman testified. He said residents feared retaliation if they were seen speaking with deputies.

The jury of five women and seven men deliberated four hours. Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court scheduled the sentencing for June 7.

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

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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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