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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