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Jefferson Parish DA, Sheriff’s Office cold-case team gets Crimestoppers award


Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans on Tuesday (March 14) recognized a Jefferson Parish cold-case investigative and prosecution team with its Law Enforcement Unit of the Year “Protector Award,” for solving and bringing closure to a 45-year-old case involving the rape and murder of a 5-year-old Waggaman girl.

Nancy Michel, chief of the District Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness Assistance Division, Assistant District Attorneys Doug Freese and Shannon Swaim and the late District Attorney investigator John Ronquillo were recognized for their work in solving the sexual assault and death of Stephanie Hebert.

Retired WWL-TV anchor Karen Swenson accepted the award on behalf of her husband, John Ronquillo who died in 2018.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Capt. Dennis Thornton, Lt. David Mascaro and detectives Jesus Falcon and Jerry Devorak also were recognized for their work on Stephanie Hebert’s case.

Stephanie Hebert went missing on June 13, 1978. Her remains were found five months later tied to a tree in a wooded area in St. Charles Parish.

The case went cold until an effort led by Nancy Michel prompted the District Attorney’s Office and Capt. Thornton of the JPSO Cold-Case Squad to re-examine the case, leading to the arrest and indictment of Jason Franklin Sr., for three counts of aggravated rape in 2019. These crimes involved Stephanie Hebert and two other child victims.

The District Attorney’s Office was in the process of reviewing the case on Franklin for Stephanie Hebert’s death when he died in prison in 2021. Meanwhile, a key witness in the case died tragically in an automobile accident in New Orleans that same year.

“Despite this outcome, and based on the posture of this case in 2021 and the evidence accumulated, investigators have closed Stephanie Hebert’s murder by exceptional means, declaring Jason Franklin Sr., the suspect responsible for her murder,” Crimestoppers said.

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.


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.


Following an exhaustive, 23-month police use-of-force review, District Attorney Paul D. Connick Jr., announces today his office will not seek criminal charges

GRETNA, La. – Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul D. Connick Jr., announced today that his office will not seek criminal charges against JPSO narcotics agents Justin Brister, Gary Bordelon, David Lowe or Jason Spadoni, whose apprehension of Keeven Robinson led to his tragic death. In light of the evidence, the State cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of any of the agents rises to the level of criminal conduct.

Mr. Robinson, who was the focus of an undercover narcotics investigation for selling heroin and cocaine in Jefferson Parish, died May 10, 2018, while resisting lawful arrest. The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office concluded that Mr. Robinson’s cause of death was compressional asphyxia and blunt force injuries with acute asthmatic exacerbation, and the manner of death was homicide.

“While a homicide is the killing of one person by another, not every homicide is a crime,” D.A. Connick said. “As in all cases, our review must focus upon the elements of proof as well as any legal justifications or defenses that may apply.”

Upon receipt of the report from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 8, 2018, this office began a comprehensive and independent review of this matter without regard to costs, resources or the time required to reach a fair and just decision. The office retained independent experts in forensic pathology and police use of force to provide opinions on the cause of Mr. Robinson’s death and the agents’ actions in arresting him.

“The role of the District Attorney in all criminal cases is to seek justice,” D.A. Connick said. “This is done by pursuing the evidence and law according to the highest standards of ethics and integrity, and by determining the facts from an independent, objective and neutral perspective.”

Throughout the process, the District Attorney’s Office remained in contact with the Robinson family and their attorneys. This morning, D.A. Connick met with Robinson family members to inform them of the office’s decision.

Today, the D.A.’s Office has published on its website,, its final report, outlining the details of the review and analysis of this case. The report also outlines the findings of the independent experts who were retained by the District Attorney.

Read the final report.


The Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office partially reopened its facilities on Monday, May 18. Many members of our staff have returned to their offices, but others continue to work remotely.

Anyone wishing to enter parish government facilities must have their temperature taken by parish personnel upon entering and wear a mask while inside. Click here to read Jefferson Parish government’s Phase One reopening plan.

During this period, we ask that you contact us at 504.361.2854, Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., or via email at, in order to schedule an appointment to meet with a member of our staff.




In following state and local orders, the District Attorney’s Office is closed to the public effective 4:30 p.m., Monday, March 23.

However, the office remains operational and committed to serving the public.

During this period, we ask you to contact us at 504.361.2854, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., or via email at

Read Gov. John Bel Edward’s Stay At Home Order



The Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office remains operational and committed to serving our community.

In accordance with all orders and directives issued by our State and local authorities we are encouraging members of the public to contact our office via phone at 504.368.1020 or email,, instead of appearing in person.

We have attached links to our criminal justice partners for your convenience:

Henry Lee, renowned forensic scientist, visits Jeff Parish DA’s office

Dr. Henry Lee, a renowned forensic scientist, visited the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office on Friday (June 7) at the invitation of DA Paul D. Connick Jr., to speak to prosecutors on crime scene reconstruction and forensic analysis. (JPDA photos)

It was 1986 and Paul D. Connick Jr. was a young Jefferson Parish assistant district attorney prosecuting a complex two-defendant murder case when he first sought advice from Dr. Henry Lee.

A renowned forensic scientist who immigrated from Taiwan in 1965, Dr. Lee had already established his international reputation in criminal investigations in Connecticut, where he worked his way up as chief criminologist with the state police to becoming that agency’s commissioner.

Connick decided to attempt to lure Dr. Lee down South.

“I bought 200 pounds of crawfish and shipped them to him,” Connick joked.

“That’s a good lawyer,” Dr. Lee quipped in response.

At Connick’s invitation, Dr. Lee traveled to Louisiana again this week to present a course on crime scene reconstruction and forensic analysis to Jefferson Parish assistant district attorneys as part of their continuing legal education requirements. The JPDA Media Room was filled to capacity with prosecutors and employees during the presentation on Friday (June 7).

Dr. Lee’s involvement in the 1986 murder case was the start of a decades-long relationship. DA for more than 20 years now, Connick has consulted with Dr. Lee on numerous high-profile murder cases, of late including the murder and dismemberment of French Quarter dancer Jaren Lockhart.

“In this business, in this line of work, we have to get it right,” Connick told his prosecutors. “So I want people I can trust to tell me we got it right. With Henry, I know.”

The namesake for the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven, Conn., Dr. Lee has consulted on more than 8,000 criminal cases in 47 countries. In the United States, he has worked on crimes such as the O.J. Simpson case and the re-investigation of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

He helped debunk the conspiracy theory that President Bill Clinton was responsible for the death of Vince Foster, who committed suicide in 1983. Dr. Lee also helped confirm President Clinton’s White House tryst with Monica Lewinsky.

Weaving advice with anecdotal stories from his career, Dr. Lee recounted many of the high-profile cases during his presentation.

“I only do one thing: Make the impossible possible,” Dr. Lee told the audience.