Year: 2021

Convicted of role in Metairie robbery murder, Calvin King sentenced to life in prison

A Jefferson Parish judge on Wednesday (Dec. 15) sentenced Calvin King to a mandatory life sentence in prison for his conviction of the second-degree murder of Javier Sanchez.

Sanchez, 26, was forcibly removed from his Metairie apartment during an armed robbery on the night of Nov. 2, 2007. He was later shot dead.

Judge E. Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court also sentenced King, 49, to 30 years in prison for his conviction of armed robbery, a crime that preceded Sanchez’s killing. Judge Adams ran the 30-year sentence concurrent to the life sentence.

After a weeklong trial, a Jefferson Parish jury deliberated less than three hours on Oct. 29 in convicting King guilty as charged of both charges.

King and two cohorts, Willie Gross and a still-unidentified man, went to Sanchez’s apartment in the 1900 block of Clearview Parkway, intent on robbing him of two kilograms of cocaine and cash. All three men were armed, according to trial testimony.

Sanchez was away picking up fried chicken for dinner when the trio forced their way into the apartment. Sanchez’s girlfriend was home alone, according to trial evidence. King used gray duct tape to bound her to bed posts, and the trio ransacked the apartment. Sanchez returned and was forced to leave with the intruders, who stole cash and jewelry, according to trial evidence.

About two hours later, a motorist traveling on Interstate 510 in eastern New Orleans spotted Sanchez’s body on the edge of the roadway. He had been shot once in the abdomen.

In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese held crime scene photographs of Sanchez’s body and referred to King: “That arrogant man decided that he was free to break into someone’s home with his friends and at gunpoint persuade or force him (Sanchez) to leave, to end his life and to dump him on the roadside like trash.”

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives linked King to the crime through his fingerprint, which crime scene technicians lifted from the roll of duct tape he used to bound Sanchez’s girlfriend. She then was able to identify King from a photographic lineup. At the time of the crime, King lived in Kenner.

Questioned by detectives, King provided a partial confession. “Y’all did y’all homework,” he told them, according to his statement that was presented to the jury. “I duct tape the girl but left before he (Sanchez) got there because I didn’t want to be involved in any of that and you right, Willie was with me but I left and walked back to Kenner.”

King was prosecuted as a principal to the murder. “It does not matter who pulled the trigger,” ADA Freese told jurors of the law of principals. “In for a penny, in for a pound.”

King did not testify. His attorneys attempted to depict Sanchez’s girlfriend as a liar and argued that King was not guilty of armed robbery and second-degree murder.

Gross, now 53, was convicted of second-degree murder and armed robbery in 2011. He is serving a life sentence in prison. After Sanchez was found dead, the vehicle the trio used to abduct Sanchez was found burnt at a vacant home in eastern New Orleans, according to evidence presented in that trial.

This trial was the fourth time juries were seated to weigh evidence against King. During the first two trials, a judge granted the defense attorney’s requests for mistrials. King was convicted by a third jury in 2013. But that same judge later vacated the conviction, and King has been free on bail ever since. That judge has since retired.

Before sentencing King on Wednesday, Judge Adams denied the defense attorney’s motion for post judgement verdict of acquittal and a motion for a new trial.

In addition to ADA Freese, Assistant District Attorney Gabrielle Hosli helped prosecute the case. They were not involved in the previous trials.

Metairie man convicted of domestic abuse by strangulation

A Jefferson Parish jury has found Jose Sagastume guilty of strangling his wife during an argument in their Metairie home.

Sagastume, 34, was convicted as charged of domestic abuse by strangulation for the Sept. 15, 2019, incident.

According to evidence presented at trial, Sagastume returned home from a night out drinking and accused his wife of being unfaithful. The ensuing argument escalated to violence, when Sagastume tackled her, put his hands around her neck and began strangling her, according to trial evidence.

As the argument unfolded, the wife telephoned her cousin and asked him to go to their home. Amid the attack, the cousin arrived and knocked on the door, which enabled her to escape and call 911.

The jury heard testimony about a prior incident involving a physical altercation over jealousy.

Sagastume denied strangling his wife, an assertion the jury rejected after deliberating for about two hours on Tuesday (Nov. 9).

Judge R. Christopher Cox of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Sagastume on Monday (Nov. 15).

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Stephen Downer prosecuted the case.

Jury rejects self-defense claim, convicts man of Metairie barroom killing

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday (Nov. 10) found Maurice “Marlo” Leach guilty of manslaughter for fatally shooting Michael Shawn Brown in a Metairie lounge.

Leach, 35, also was found guilty of obstruction of justice, for removing and discarding the pistol he used to kill Brown about 4 a.m., on May 25, 2019, inside the lounge in the 4500 block of South Interstate 10 Service Road.

According to evidence presented at trial, Leach and Brown were onetime friends who for unknown reasons had a falling out. On the morning in question, the men got into an argument while inside the lounge, according to video evidence presented to the jury.

Patrons at the business intervened to separate the men. At one point, Brown stepped back and away from Leach, and a woman stepped in between them to separate them further. Leach retrieved a 9mm semiautomatic pistol with his right hand, lunged forwarded and reached over the woman, firing a single projectile into Brown’s face.

Brown immediately fell to the floor beside the bar and died shortly after. He was 49.

Leach stood momentarily at the bar, then pulled at the barstool on which his female acquaintance sat. She remained seated. A moment later, he casually walked out the lounge’s front door. In the parking lot, he entered the rear seat of a car where a man and woman sat and asked for a ride. His request rebuffed, he then stepped out and walked away.

A week later, U.S. Marshals located and arrested Leach in his native Trenton, N.J., where he has family, according to evidence presented at trial.

Leach asserted he felt threatened by Brown and so shot him in self-defense, claiming that he thought Brown was going to pull a weapon from his pocket. At trial, his attorney asked jurors to find it was a justifiable homicide and to acquit him.

The video evidence contradicts Leach’s assertions, and Leach went to trial charged with second-degree murder. The jury deliberated about 2 ½ hours and returned with the lesser charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Judge Stephen Enright of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Leach on Dec. 16.

Assistant District Attorneys Brittany Beckner and Rebecca Thompson prosecuted the case.


Kenner man faces life in prison for 2018 murder

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday night (Oct. 21) found Lanard Lavigne guilty as charged of the second-degree murder of Kerwin Conner in their Kenner neighborhood.

Lavigne, 25, also was convicted as charged of aggravated criminal damage to property, for the damage his 9mm bullets caused to occupied apartments as he chased Conner during the March 14, 2018 crime.

Although armed with a revolver, Conner, 36, fled for his life, running 175 yards in the 300 block of Clemson Drive as Lavigne pursued him, according to evidence presented to jurors. In all, Lavigne fired 14 bullets at the fleeing Conner.

Conner ran to the safety of his apartment, where his wife and 9-year-old daughter were inside. As Conner stood at the front door, Lavigne fired four bullets. Projectiles struck Connor’s thighs, severing his left and right femoral arteries and causing him to bleed to death, according to trial evidence.

“In fact, he thought so little about taking that life that he complained about it messing up his plans to get a GED” during his interrogation by Kenner Police Detective Nicholas Engler, Assistant District Attorney Douglas Rushton told jurors in closing argument. “It’s disgusting.”

The killing originated with a dispute that occurred minutes earlier. Conner and another man were outside on Clemson Drive when one of them apparently cat-called Lavigne’s girlfriend as she walked by, according to evidence presented at trial.

Lavigne, who was armed with his pistol, later confronted the men, leading Conner to run to his nearby apartment to retrieve a pistol. He returned to the scene of the confrontation, but there was no evidence that he threatened Lavigne.

Much of the entire incident was recorded by residential security cameras. Following the murder, Lavigne fled to Houma, where he was arrested by a U.S. Marshals fugitive task force in October 2018.

Lavigne’s attorney argued that it was a justifiable homicide, in that his client was defending himself. As such, he urged jurors to acquit Lavigne of second-degree murder or, in the alternative, to find his client guilty of manslaughter.

Although he armed himself with a pistol, Conner was not the aggressor, and there was no evidence showing that he fired at Lavigne or even pointed it at him, prosecutors argued. Further, he fled for his life and sought the safety of his home. “That threat is over,” Rushton argued. “There’s no imminent danger.”

Connor’s pistol was never recovered, meaning an unknown person committed a felony obstruction of justice for the act, prosecutors told jurors.

Just before jury selection began on Monday, Lavigne pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He admitted to removing his pistol from the scene.

Jurors deliberated about 4 ½ hours before returning their verdicts at 7:15 p.m. Judge June Darensburg of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Lavigne on Dec. 6. Second-degree murder carries a sentence of mandatory life in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Tucker Wimberly prosecuted the case with ADA Rushton.

With the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affecting governmental actions this year, Lavigne’s was the 20th jury trial in Jefferson Parish’s 24th Judicial District Court so far in 2021.

It also was the second homicide case that was resolved during the week. On Tuesday (Oct. 19), Alex Travers Sanders, 42, of Kenner, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 40 years in prison by Judge Scott Schlegel. Averting his trial for second-degree murder that was scheduled to begin last week, he admitted to fatally beating his girlfriend, Amy Cancienne, 37, on Nov. 12, 2017.

Assistant District Attorney Kellie Rish prosecuted Sanders.

Kenner man convicted of raping a child

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday evening (June 3) found Tobe Lawrence Jr. guilty as charged of raping a child during a 7-year period. 

Lawrence, 59, of Kenner, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for his conviction of first-degree rape of a victim under the age of 12. The abuse, which occurred between from 2001 and 2008, was reported to the Kenner Police Department in July 2018. 

Prosecutors were also able to present testimony from an additional victim who is now 35 years old who was abused by the defendant in a similar manner. That victim was initially reluctant to participate in the prosecution. While Lawrence was not charged for abusing this victim, prosecutors were allowed to present this testimony to show evidence of Lawrence’s commission of another crime, wrong or act involving sexually assaultive behavior under Louisiana law as “lustful disposition” towards a child. 

Lawrence, a then volunteer coach in the Kenner Parks and Recreations Department’s Lincoln Manor Gym, denied the accusations and said the victims lied. Of the child he raped, his defense lawyers asserted the victim must have confused Lawrence with a convicted sex offender who lived near their client.

Jurors deliberated just over one hour before returning their unanimous verdict. Judge Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Lawrence on June 30.

Assistant District Attorneys Zach Grate and Lindsey Truhe prosecuted the case.



Westwego man convicted of sexually assaulting two women as Jefferson Parish jury trials resume

A Jefferson Parish jury, the first one empaneled in the 24th Judicial District since the Louisiana Supreme Court lifted its year-long moratorium on jury trials last month, convicted a Westwego man Wednesday (April 21) of sexually assaulting two women.

John W. Patton, 56, is guilty as charged of the attempted forcible rape of one victim, and of the forcible rape, sexual battery and false imprisonment of a second victim, the jury decided after 50 minutes of deliberation.

The first victim was a 44-year-old woman who Patton attempted to rape on Oct. 29, 2016, in her apartment in Kenner, according to trial testimony. Patton met the woman through a dating website several weeks before the crime occurred.

The second victim was a 50-year-old woman Patton victimized between Sept. 7, 2018 and Sept. 8, 2018, in his Westwego residence, according to trial testimony. The victim also met Patton through a dating website. Patton lured the victim to his home after asserting that his sister was there. After the victim arrived, and upon learning there was no sister present, Patton attacked her and held her at knifepoint before eventually letting her leave the following day, according to trial testimony.

The woman testified she relented to Patton’s demands because she was afraid of him. “Ladies and gentlemen, complying out of fear is not consent,” Assistant District Attorney Zach Popovich, who prosecuted Patton with Laura Schneidau, told jurors in opening statements on April 13.

“Ladies and gentlemen, complying out of fear is not consent.”- Assistant District Attorney Zach Popovich

The victim in the 2016 crime did not report it to police until reading of the second victim in a 2018 news report, according to trial testimony. Both women described Patton as sexually assaulting them but unable to maintain an erection.

Patton, who previously fired his court-appointed attorney and acted as his own defense counsel, denied assaulting the women or being impotent. He accused the police of engaging in misconduct.

Judge Stephen Grefer is scheduled to sentence Patton on May 19.

Patton’s jury trial was the first in Jefferson Parish since the Louisiana Supreme Court lifted its statewide moratorium that was enacted last year in response to the pandemic. The moratorium was lifted effective April 1.

A second post-moratorium jury was seated last week in Judge Adrian Adams’ court. On Thursday (April 15), those jurors convicted a Baton Rouge man of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Assistant District Attorneys Zach Grate and Margaret Martin prosecuted that case.

Then, on Tuesday (April 20), a jury was seated in Judge Frank Brindisi’s court to weigh evidence against Alexander Style, 41, of New Orleans, who was charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and witness intimidation. But before opening statements began Wednesday, Styles pleaded guilty as charged and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Assistant District Attorneys Joshua Vanderhooft and Matthew Whitworth prosecuted the case.

In November, meanwhile, when the moratorium was temporarily lifted, a jury seated in Judge Michael Mentz’s court convicted a Marrero man of violating a protective order and of other offenses. That jury was seated only because the defendant filed a speedy trial motion earlier in the year. Assistant District Attorneys Popovich and Rebecca Kehoe Thomas prosecuted that case.