Year: 2022

Wendell Lachney pleads guilty to killing 9-year-old girl in drunk driving crash

A Jefferson Parish judge on Tuesday (Sept. 20) sentenced Wendell Lachney to 30 years in prison, after the defendant admitted that he was highly intoxicated when he crashed his car into a minivan at high speed on a West Bank highway, causing the death of a 9-year-old girl and injuring her mother.

Lachney, 58, of Belle Chasse, pleaded guilty as charged to vehicular homicide, first-degree vehicular negligent injury and other offenses in the Oct. 22, 2021, wreck on Belle Chasse Highway near its intersection with Lapalco Boulevard.

At the time that his blood was drawn more than 2 ½ hours after the crash, Lachney’s blood-alcohol content was .22 percent, more than double the .08 percent legal limit to drive under Louisiana law. Lachney was driving upwards of 60 mph when he drove into the rear of the minivan.

Lachney, who already had two prior DWI convictions, had been drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana hours before he drove into the minivan. In his car, Louisiana State Police troopers found an opened bottle of whiskey, wine, a cup of beer, marijuana and a pipe he used to smoke the marijuana.

Before announcing the sentence Tuesday, Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court heard impact testimony from five family members, including the child’s parents. Her mother recalled being stopped at a red light when she saw Lachney closing in from behind and then slam into her minivan.

“I watched strangers performing CPR on my 9-year-old on the cold cement road,” she testified. “I fell to my knees as I grabbed a man by his legs and begged him to save my daughter. I screamed to God and to the helpers to kill me instead. Take me, so my daughter can live. I prayed. I begged. I bartered with my soul. Did you hear my screams that night, Wendell?”

Said her father: “I miss our jam sessions in the car and our trips to get coffee. I miss holding you in my arms when you need someone to be strong for you. I am so sad that I will never get to walk you down the aisle or see what an amazing parent you would have been.  Your mom, your brothers and I miss you dearly, and life will never be the same without you here.  We love you to the moon and back.”

Following the crash, Lachney was booked and then released from jail on bond. He then entered an inpatient substance abuse program in St. Tammany Parish. Following the child’s death two days after the crash, Louisiana State Police arrested him there after obtaining an arrest warrant. Lachney’s bond was then set at $1 million.

He also pleaded guilty to reckless operation of a motor vehicle, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of an open alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle and for not wearing a seatbelt.

Judge Grefer sentenced Lachney to 30 years in prison for vehicular homicide and five years suspended for first-degree vehicular negligent injury, to be served on home incarceration after he’s released from prison. The vehicular homicide charge was designated as a crime of violence.

Additionally, Judge Grefer sentenced Lachney to 90 days for reckless operation of a motor vehicle, and 15 days for possession of drug paraphernalia. He ran the sentences concurrent.

Assistant District Attorneys Brittany Beckner and Matthew Whitworth prosecuted the case.

Maurice Ervin sentenced to 55 years for Harahan carjacking conviction

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Sept. 19) sentenced Maurice Ervin to 55 years in prison for his conviction of carjacking a couple in East Jefferson.

Ervin, 16, who was prosecuted as an adult, was convicted as charged last week of two counts of armed robbery with a firearm in connection with the Feb. 12 incident.

Armed with a pistol and wearing a ski mask, Ervin was seen trying to enter apartments in the 1900 block of Hickory Avenue. His activities led residents to call 911.

Meanwhile, a man and woman stopped their vehicle on Hickory Avenue so he could take photographs of roof work in the area. The couple was preparing to replace their roof because of Hurricane Ida damage.

The man stepped out of his vehicle to take photos of a home’s roof, leaving his wife in the passenger seat. That’s when Ervin jumped into the driver’s seat. The woman attempted to grab her cell phone, and Ervin pointed the pistol at her head and put the vehicle in reverse.

The man, meanwhile, was unaware of what was happening until he was getting back into his vehicle. Ervin then pointed the pistol at the man, who grabbed the gun barrel. The woman fled the vehicle. The man fell to the ground and was dragged by the driver’s door, and a tire ran over his left foot.

A nearby Good Samaritan witnessed what was happening and called 911. She then followed the vehicle until the Harahan Police Department and later the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office intervened.

Ervin led the officers on a pursuit onto Jefferson Highway, with Ervin speeding through a construction zone at the Huey P. Long Bridge and then driving against traffic before he wrecked into a utility pole and was arrested.

Following a two-day trial, a Jefferson Parish jury deliberated one hour before returning with its unanimous verdict on Wednesday (Sept. 14).

On Monday, Judge Frank Brindisi of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Ervin to 50 years for each armed robbery count and five years for firearm enhancements, for a total of 55 years on each count. Judge Brindisi ran the sentences concurrently.

Assistant District Attorneys Kristen Landrieu and Stephen Downer prosecuted the case.

Jalen Harvey guilty in Joseph Vindel’s marketplace app murder

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday night (Sept. 1) deliberated 45 minutes in finding Jalen Harvey guilty of killing Joseph Vindel, a New Orleans man who was trying to sell his dirt bike through an online marketplace app last year when he was shot.

Harvey, 22, of Harvey, is guilty as charged of the first-degree murder of Vindel. The 29-year-old real estate agent was shot five or six times while sitting in the driver’s seat of his sports utility vehicle outside a West Bank apartment complex on the morning of March 7, 2021.

Vindel advertised his dirt bike’s sale through the OfferUp marketplace app. Harvey, who used a fake name and phone number on the app, responded to the advertisement with plans to use movie prop cash, or “play money,” to purchase the motorcycle while armed with a semiautomatic pistol.

Vindel towed the dirt bike on a trailer from his Uptown home to the West Bank. Through text messages, Harvey gave Vindel several meeting locations before directing him to the 2100 block of Manhattan Boulevard.

Harvey’s first gunshot struck Vindel on the right side of his face, causing a nonfatal wound. Harvey continued shooting, striking Vindel in the rear of his right shoulder, neck and to the back of his head. Vindel also suffered a gunshot wound to left hand.

His wounds were consistent with his being shot in the face and then turning away defensively as Harvey continued shooting him through the front passenger’s side window, according to expert testimony.

Vindel brought his pistol with him to make the transaction, but a round was never chambered, meaning he was not prepared to fire it. Alleging he was defending himself when he began shooting, Harvey said that Vindel pointed the pistol at him during the transaction and held it in his left hand. That was an impossibility, given the gunshot injury to Vindel’s left hand.

Evidence shows that Vindel’s heart was still pumping blood when Harvey dragged the body between the front seats to the back seat floorboard. Harvey then drove around the city in Vindel’s SUV for more than an hour.

In testimony Friday, Harvey admitted to dousing Vindel’s upper body with gasoline. He asserted he did so to kill DNA.

After leaving the body and SUV in the 2300 block of Coliseum Street in the Garden District, Harvey drove Vindel’s dirt bike back to his West Bank apartment.

A missing person’s investigation began on the night of March 7, 2021, more than 10 hours after Vindel left home to sell the dirt bike. After a search that included the New Orleans Police Department and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Vindel’s body and SUV were located early the following morning.

Detectives found Harvey through investigating his correspondence with Vindel in the marketplace app. They spotted Vindel’s motorcycle at Harvey’s apartment.

In addition to first-degree murder, Harvey was convicted as charged of obstruction of justice and monetary instrument abuse.

The obstruction charge stems from his eliminating evidence to hinder the investigation, including driving Vindel’s body to the Garden District. Vindel’s wallet and cell phone were never found.

The monetary instrument abuse charge involves his use of the movie prop money in the transaction. Detectives also found more than 175 fake $100 bills in his apartment.

The jury returned with its unanimous verdicts just after 9 p.m. Judge E. Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Harvey on Oct. 6. Harvey faces a mandatory life sentence in prison.

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

Steven Tate, 2nd man convicted in Gretna murder, sentenced to life in prison

A Jefferson Parish judge has sentenced Steven Tate to life in prison for his conviction in the shooting death of Ethan Allen, a Marrero man who was killed during a robbery attempt in Gretna.

Tate, 25, of Metairie, was convicted by a unanimous jury on Aug. 10 of second-degree murder. The jury acquitted Tate of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Tate and Leonidas Lowry were accused of conspiring to lure Allen to the 800 block of Gulf Drive on Nov. 29, 2016, planning to rob him. When Allen arrived, Tate shot him. Allen in turn shot Tate multiple times.

Allen, 22, of Marrero, died near the shooting scene. The Gretna Police Department found the wounded Tate outside a nearby house.

Lowry, 22, who lived in the 800 block of Gulf Drive, was convicted as charged of second-degree murder on March 23. Because he was a 16-year-old juvenile at the time of the crime, Lowry was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after serving 25 years.

On Monday (Aug. 29), after denying defense requests for a new trial and post-verdict acquittal, Judge Scott Schlegel of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Tate to life in prison without probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

Assistant District Attorneys Joshua Vanderhooft and Brittany Beckner prosecuted Tate.

Corey Woods convicted anew in Bunche Village triple-murder

A Jefferson Parish jury on Friday (Aug. 19) convicted Corey Woods of killing three people, including the 16-year-old younger sister of his intended victim, while they sat inside a car in East Jefferson’s Bunche Village neighborhood.

Woods, 37, of Metairie, who is known as “Cocomo,” is guilty as charged of three counts of second-degree murder and one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

On the night of Jan. 22, 2017, Woods killed Malcolm Wallace, 25, of Metairie; Wallace’s girlfriend, Daneka Lott, 24, of Kenner; and Wallace’s 16-year-old sister, whose name is withheld because she was a juvenile. Woods’ target was Wallace, and he killed Lott and the teenager to eliminate witnesses.

“Three people executed. Executed. Five different shots fired, each one saying, ‘I want you dead,’” Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese, who prosecuted with Lynn Schiffman, told jurors in closing argument Friday. “This was an execution, as cold-blooded a crime as you could imagine.”

Woods, a longtime acquaintance of the Wallace family, spent part of the evening with the family in their home, watching a football game.

Afterward, Woods, Wallace, Lott and the teenager traveled to a sporting goods store on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in a 2006 Honda Accord so Woods could purchase slippers. A 6-year-old boy at the Wallace residence wanted to tag along, but Woods gave the child $5 to remain behind, suggesting that he knew what was to happen.

After purchasing the slippers and stopping at a fast-food restaurant, they were returning to the Wallace residence. In the 1400 block of South Laurel Street, just off Mistletoe Street, Woods began shooting while inside the car.

Sitting behind the driver’s seat, Woods shot Wallace twice; a bullet severed his spinal cord. He shot Lott in the right side of her head. They both died later at a hospital.

Woods shot the 16-year-old girl in the back of her head. She died in the back seat.

Immediately after, Woods fled on foot across Airline Drive, taking with him the slippers they just purchased.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives booked Woods with the murders based on a combination of witnesses, cell phone records and business surveillance videos.

Woods was legally prohibited from possessing firearms because of narcotics convictions.

Woods denied being the killer. The jury deliberated less than 1 ½ hours before returning with its unanimous verdict.

This brings to two the number of times Woods was convicted of the killings. In November 2018, a jury found Woods guilty as charged, and he subsequently was sentenced to life in prison.

However, he received a new trial because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision, Ramos vs. Louisiana, which mandates unanimous jury verdicts. The jury that convicted Woods in 2018 was nonunanimous, 10-2 in favor of guilt.

Judge Donnie Rowan of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Woods on Sept. 2.

Assistant District Attorneys Doug Freese and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted Woods.

Sherneskie Bell guilty of possessing child pornography

A Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday (July 13) found Sherneskie Bell guilty as charged of possession of pornography involving juveniles under age 13.

Bell, 62, of Kenner, downloaded about 2,700 images, videos and GIFs to his mobile phone over a period of months in 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office concluded. The images included children as young as 3 years old.

The Kenner Police Department opened the investigation of Bell in October 2018, following an argument he had with his teenage girlfriend after she heard that he had nude photographs of her on his mobile phone.

She fled to her home with the phone, unlocked it and discovered the pornographic images involving juveniles. Her sister promptly brought the phone to the Kenner Police Department.

Detectives also found a notebook in his apartment in which he listed pornographic websites and search terms for search engines. Bell wrote of marrying girls as young as 12 years old.

In testimony on Wednesday, Bell told jurors that his girlfriend stole his mobile phone and downloaded the pornographic images to frame him. He also asserted that his coworkers sometimes used his phone. Bell also suggested that his girlfriend and her sister manipulated data in his mobile phone to show the images were downloaded over a period of months.

In rebuttal, the prosecution team provided expert testimony from the Sheriff’s Office’s Digital Forensic Unit, showing that it would have been impossible for Bell’s ex-girlfriend to have the expertise to manipulate the download dates in a matter of hours to show the images were obtained over a period of months.

The jury, which was seated on Tuesday, deliberated about 45 minutes in reaching its unanimous verdict. Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Bell on Aug. 10.

Assistant District Attorneys Blaine Moncrief and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.


Rondell Lasalle sentenced to 35 years for Harvey manslaughter conviction

A Jefferson Parish judge on Thursday (June 30) sentenced Rondell Lasalle to 35 years in prison for his conviction of shooting a man in the back during a fight in a Harvey apartment.

Lasalle, 30, of Marrero, was convicted by a jury on April 6 of manslaughter in the death of James Cole, 27. Lasalle also was found guilty of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

On the night of March 8, 2020, Lasalle and Cole were in an apartment in the 1100 block of Orange Blossom Lane when an argument escalated to a physical altercation. During the fight, Lasalle shot Cole in the back. Cole died the following day.

Shortly after he was shot, Cole told a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy that Lasalle was the shooter. Other people who were in the apartment did not see the fight but heard the ruckus and two gunshots. One witness also saw Lasalle leave the apartment immediately after the gunshots.

Soon after, the Gretna Police Department detained Lasalle after seeing him walking along a drainage canal bank that marks the city’s municipal boundary with Harvey and is two blocks from Orange Blossom Lane.

Lasalle carried a backpack, in which there was a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. A fired casing was jammed in the slide, making the pistol inoperable, according to testimony.

Lasalle asserted self-defense, and his attorneys argued the shooting was accidental. Lasalle testified that during an afternoon of playing video games, he teased Cole about the mother of his children. The friction led to an argument that escalated to a fist fight and culminated with Cole brandishing a pistol, Lasalle testified.

He told jurors that he twisted Cole’s arm behind his back in trying to disarm him, and that’s when the pistol fired. Fearing retribution from Cole’s friends, Lasalle said he picked up the pistol and fled instead of calling 911 and trying to help the dying man.

Both men’s DNA was recovered from the pistol. Lasalle’s DNA was recovered in far greater amounts, suggesting that the pistol was his, according to testimony.

Prosecutors put on rebuttal witnesses to refute Lasalle’s self-defense assertion. Evidence showed that Cole was shot in the back at a distance, meaning the pistol was not mere inches from his back when the trigger was pulled, as Lasalle described in testimony. Also, the trajectory that the bullet followed through Cole’s body further refuted Lasalle’s version of the shooting, according to testimony.

By law, Lasalle was prohibited from possessing firearms because of his criminal history. Jurors heard of a simple burglary conviction and that he was previously convicted of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

For killing Cole, Lasalle stood trial on a charge of second-degree murder. The jury deliberated just over two hours in finding Lasalle guilty of manslaughter, a lesser homicide offense that carries a punishment of up to 40 years in prison.

On Thursday, Judge Michael Mentz of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Lasalle to 35 years for manslaughter and 20 years for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Judge Mentz ran the sentences concurrently.

Assistant District Attorneys Thomas Sanderson and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.

Lawrence Sly convicted of murdering his neighbor in Woodmere



A Jefferson Parish jury Friday evening (June 17) found Lawrence Sly guilty as charged of second-degree murder for killing his neighbor, a crime that was the culmination of years of disputes between the two men.

Sly, now 70, shot Webber, 57, six times outside their homes in the 3800 block of Chinkapin Street, in the Woodmere subdivision. Webber was unarmed.

Just before the Nov. 11, 2019 encounter, Sly was leaving his home and noticed Webber was home. Sly then retrieved his Smith & Wesson 9mm semiautomatic pistol. As he departed, Webber emerged from his home and, according to Sly, threatened him.

Sly shot Webber in a knee, a shoulder and the other knee as the men stood on Sly’s property, at the sidewalk between their driveways. Sly then shot Webber in his back. As Webber stumbled across the street, Sly reloaded his pistol with another magazine.

Finally, after Webber collapsed on the sidewalk across Chinkapin Drive unable to walk further, Sly stood over the victim and shot him twice more in the head. Webber died there in a pool of his blood.

Sly remained on scene for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. He asserted self-defense, saying Webber was threatening him and reaching at his pants waistband as though he was armed. Sly alleged he shot Webber after Webber began walking menacing toward him and continued shooting him.

Sly also told detectives that he “shot him in his head because I wasn’t, I wasn’t letting him come back on me.”

The Sheriff’s Office booked Sly with manslaughter. A Jefferson Parish grand jury later returned with a charge of second-degree murder.

Evidence shows the neighbors’ disputes can be traced to Oct. 3, 2015, when Sly called the Sheriff’s Office to report that Webber was outside his home holding a shotgun. Deputies took no action because Webber committed no crimes.

On Oct. 30, 2015, the Sheriff’s Office again was summoned to Chinkapin Street because Webber was cutting his grass while holding the shotgun. He committed no crimes.

Two years later, Sly again called the Sheriff’s Office to report that Webber pointed the shotgun at him. For that, Webber was charged with felony aggravated assault. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor aggravated assault and received one year of probation after Sly sought to drop charges. Webber remained on probation until April 2019

In May 2018, Sly and Webber engaged in a physical altercation that led to injuries requiring medical treatment.

The jury that was seated on Tuesday deliberated about 3 ½ hours Friday before returning its unanimous verdict. Judge Nancy Miller of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Sly on July 11.

Assistant District Attorneys Joshua Vanderhooft and Lindsay Truhe prosecuted the case.

Abraham Aguilar convicted of sexual battery of a juvenile

A Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday night (June 15) found Abraham Aguilar guilty as charged of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13.

Aguilar, 40, of Marrero, committed the crime between Jan. 1, 2020 and Aug. 18, 2020, when the victim was 11 years old. In addition to the felony offense, Aguilar was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery involving the same victim.

Aguilar was tried on both charges simultaneously. Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court weighed evidence presented on the misdemeanor offense, and the jury weighed evidence presented for the felony offense.

The jury, which was seated on Monday, deliberated about 2 ½ hours in reaching its unanimous verdict. Judge Kovach is scheduled to sentence Aguilar on June 30.

Assistant District Attorneys Christina Fisher and John Ransone prosecuted the cases.

Justin ‘Jeeky’ Hutchinson guilty of murdering New Orleans man at Marrero bar & grill

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday night (May 26) found Justin A. “Jeeky” Hutchinson guilty as charged of second-degree murder for shooting a New Orleans man repeatedly outside a Marrero bar and grill.

Using his 9mm semiautomatic pistol, Hutchinson, 32, of Marrero, shot Rashad Lewis once in the head, five times in his left abdomen and once in the pelvis as he sat in the driver’s seat of his parents’ 2016 Mercedes Benz SUV.

Hutchinson then grabbed Lewis’ .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol from inside the vehicle and fired repeatedly at the SUV. In all, Hutchinson fired 17 bullets at Lewis and Lewis’ SUV.

Lewis, 29, died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds.

The shooting happened about 10 p.m., on Oct. 21, 2020, in a bar and grill parking lot in the 6500 block of Lapalco Boulevard. Lewis was among about 50 people gathered at the business to celebrate the memory of a friend who had been killed in New Orleans. Lewis was friends with that victim’s brother.

Immediately after shooting Lewis, Hutchinson ran by the entrance to the bar and waived the pistol at the patrons inside before he ran on. Hutchinson was known to many people in that part of Marrero.

A Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office juvenile detective who just completed curfew checks happened to be driving by, heard the gunfire and saw a man dressed in distinctive clothing — Hutchinson – running from the scene. The detective saw the suspect discard the 9mm pistol in a yard in the 2000 block of Betty Street. Sheriff’s Office ballistics experts later concluded that pistol was used in this crime. The .40-caliber pistol was not recovered.

The crime was recorded by a video surveillance system, and jurors were shown the recordings. The video showed Hutchinson and Lewis exchanging words several times in the minutes before the shooting. Further, Hutchinson was identified as the shooter.

Investigators also found Hutchinson’s social media posts from that evening, in which he told his followers two hours before he shot Lewis that he was at the Lapalco Boulevard bar and grill. After killing Lewis, Hutchinson remained at large for more than three weeks, when he surrendered to the Sheriff’s Office.

In addition to the murder charge, Hutchinson was convicted as charged of obstruction of justice, for removing the pistols from the scene.

He also was convicted as charged of two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He was legally prohibited from possessing guns because of a 2015 conviction of aggravated assault with a firearm. One count is based on his having the 9mm pistol, and the second one stems from his possessing Lewis’ .40-caliber pistol.

Hutchinson’s attorney argued that his client is innocent and was framed. Jurors deliberated almost 3 ½ hours before delivering its guilty verdicts.

Judge R. Christopher Cox III of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Hutchinson on June 15.

Assistant District Attorneys Laura Schneidau and Brittany Beckner prosecuted the case.