Tag: kenner police department

Jury finds Arizona man guilty of negligent homicide in chokehold death

A Jefferson Parish judge on Friday (April 8) sentenced Vincent Medearis to five years in prison for his conviction of killing his inebriated coworker with a lethal chokehold in a Kenner hotel room two years ago.

The Friday morning sentencing hearing came about 18 hours after a jury found Medearis guilty of negligent homicide in the death of Isaias Fino, 39, of Goodyear, Ariz. Five years is the maximum sentence for negligent homicide under Louisiana law.

Medearis, 58, of Phoenix, Ariz., was charged with manslaughter. The jury deliberated about 2 ½ hours before returning with the negligent homicide verdict Thursday night. In doing so, jurors rejected Medearis’ self-defense claims.

In a victim-impact letter read aloud in court, Fino’s sisters asked for the maximum sentence. Although Fino was vilified in testimony during the trial, his sisters described him as the “kindhearted” father of a 5-year-old daughter whose death left “a void in (his mother’s) heart.”

Medearis expressed regret for his actions and asked Fino’s family to forgive him.

The men were employed by an Arizona-based roofing company and were in the New Orleans area for work, according to evidence presented at trial. They were staying in a hotel in the 2600 block of Williams Boulevard.

According to testimony, Fino, a foreman known among his subordinates for his obnoxious and abrasive personality, was drunk when about 9 p.m., on March 5, 2020, he went to a hotel room that Medearis shared with a roommate.

Hostile horseplay led to a physical altercation between Fino and the roommate, and then between Medearis and Fino, according to testimony. Medearis held Fino in a chokehold. The roommate told him to stop as Fino coughed and wheezed, according to testimony. Medearis told his roommate to report Fino’s behavior to their boss.

The roommate left the room to summon their boss, and when he returned, Fino was dead. Medearis remained on scene and called 911, according to testimony.

When Kenner Police Department Detective Nick Engler arrived at the hotel room, he found Medearis standing at the foot of the bed, smoking a cigarette and looking down on the body, the officer testified. In his statement to Detective Engler, Medearis said he held Fino in a chokehold until he stopped coughing and his body went limp.

Medearis’ chokehold caused a fracture in Fino’s thyroid cartilage. Fino died of asphyxia due to manual strangulation. Fino’s blood-alcohol content was .29 percent, more than three times over the legal limit to drive in Louisiana, according to evidence presented at trial.

Medearis, who had no violent criminal history, testified Thursday that he held Fino in a chokehold to restrain him. His attorneys argued that he was defending himself and asserted that the high alcohol content in Fino’s body could have hastened his death.

Prosecutors conceded that Medearis acted in the heat of blood, an element of manslaughter. But in holding Fino in a chokehold, Medearis had specific intent to inflict great bodily harm that led to Fino’s death, another element of manslaughter.

The prosecutors also argued that Medearis was guilty under the misdemeanor-manslaughter doctrine: Medearis was committing a simple battery when he caused Fino’s death.

Negligent homicide is defined as the killing of a human being by criminal negligence. Criminal negligence exists “there is such disregard of the interest of others that the offender’s conduct amounts to a gross deviation below the standard of care expected to be maintained by a reasonably careful man under like circumstances.”

“You held him long enough that you choked the life out of him,” Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court told Medearis in announcing the sentence.

Assistant District Attorneys Christina Fisher and Joshua Vanderhooft 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.



Twyena Thomas sentenced to life for murdering her toddler

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Sept. 30) sentenced Twyena Thomas to life in prison for her conviction of killing her 28-month-old son, Chase Thomas.

On the two-year anniversary of Chase’s death, Thomas, 29, appeared in court to receive the mandatory punishment for second-degree murder. A Jefferson Parish jury on Aug. 22 convicted her as charged for causing her son’s death in their Kenner apartment through blunt-force trauma injuries to his head. Chase also weighed a mere 15 pounds at death.

 “Chase’s scars, scabs, bruises, his broken skull and his 15-pound body tell us that you were the hateful monster.”

“Chase died alone in his room, scared not of the imaginary monster in his closet, but you. You were the monster. Chase’s scars, scabs, bruises, his broken skull and his 15-pound body tell us that you were the hateful monster,” 24th Judicial District Judge Danyelle Taylor said in sentencing Thomas to life at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

After denying post-verdict motions for a new trial, Judge Taylor heard letters written by six people and two witnesses before handing down the sentence. The defendant addressed the Court prior to sentencing and stated that Chase “didn’t deserve that.”

Assistant District Attorneys Matthew Whitworth and Jenny Voss prosecuted the case.

Man convicted of sexually abusing girl sentenced to 60 years

A Jefferson Parish judge sentenced Rafael Chinchilla to 60 years in prison Thursday (Sept. 12), for his conviction of sexually abusing a child.

Chinchilla, 33, a native of Honduras, was convicted by a Jefferson Parish jury on Aug. 30 of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13, indecent behavior with a juvenile under age 13 and indecent behavior with a juvenile.

The abuse began when the victim was 11 years old and continued until she was 13. The crimes occurred in Metairie and Kenner, during which Chinchilla sent her text messages both professing his love for her and threatening her. Police were notified in February 2017, after the victim’s father searched her mobile device and found evidence of the abuse, including audio of the victim telling Chinchilla to stop.

After hearing impact testimony from the victim and her father, Judge E. Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Chinchilla to 60 years for the sexual battery, 20 years for the indecent behavior of a juvenile under age 13 and seven years for the indecent behavior with a juvenile. The sentences were run concurrently.

Judge Adams also ordered that, should Chinchilla be released from prison, he be electronically monitored and register as a sex offender for life.

Assistant District Attorneys Matthew Clauss and Emily Booth prosecuted the case.

Twyena Thomas guilty of murdering her 28-month-old son

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday night (Aug. 22) found Twyena Thomas guilty of causing her 28-month-old son’s death through blunt-force trauma injuries to the child’s head.

Thomas, 29, was convicted as charged of the second-degree murder of Chase Thomas in the Kenner apartment he shared with his mother and three siblings. He stopped breathing on Sept. 30, 2017. His severely emaciated body weighed a mere 15 pounds.

Although Chase was malnourished and dehydrated, his death was caused by blunt-force trauma to the head. According to an expert in pediatric child abuse, Chase was the victim of “child torture,” which includes psychological, emotional and physical abuse and starvation.

The jury, which was seated Tuesday, deliberated just over a half-hour. Judge Danyelle Taylor of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Thomas on Sept. 30.

Assistant District Attorneys Matthew Whitworth and Jennifer Voss prosecuted the case.

Week roundup: Juries render guilty verdicts in JP, Kenner narcotics cases

Jefferson Parish juries this week rendered guilty verdicts in three narcotics cases, including that of a Kenner man who was booked with selling heroin to another man who overdosed.

Matthew Locicero, 31, was convicted as charged Thursday night (June 27) of distribution of heroin and obstruction of justice in connection with a Sept. 8, 2018 incident. Kenner police booked Locicero after learning he sold $40 worth of heroin to a 53-year-old man who collapsed outside a strip mall in the 4000 block of Williams Boulevard.

Locicero then concealed evidence of the crime by disposing the needle and other items in a trash can. That act led to the obstruction of justice conviction.

Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Locicero on July 10.

Assistant District Attorneys Laura Schneidau and Richard Olivier prosecuted the case.

Jefferson man guilty of cocaine dealing, flight from JPSO

Meanwhile, a Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday night (June 26) convicted Charles A. Lane Jr., of being a crack cocaine dealer who led narcotics agents on a high-speed pursuit through Metairie that ended with a fiery crash.

Lane, 35, of Jefferson, was convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine 28 grams or greater, possession of methamphetamine, aggravated flight and criminal damage valued at more than $1,000 but less than $50,000.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office narcotics detectives investigated Lane after learning he would be going to a motel in the 2400 block of Clearview Parkway with narcotics about 1 a.m., on April 12, 2018.

In the parking lot, deputies used their police units with emergency lights activated to box in Lane’s Chevrolet Tahoe, according to trial evidence. Attempting to flee, Lane rammed a police unit and escaped the motel parking lot, leading deputies on a pursuit through Metairie during which he disregarded traffic signals and traveled upwards of 75 mph in a 35 mph zone.

The pursuit ended near Lane’s apartment in the 2900 block of Burns Street. He lost control of his SUV and struck a parked vehicle. He then rammed a second JPSO vehicle, causing it to catch fire. The deputies found seven grams of white powder on Lane’s body and another 28 grams in his apartment.

Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Lane on July 18.

Assistant District Attorneys Brittney Beckner and Tucker Wimberly prosecuted the case.

Methamphetamine dealer convicted

Separately, Shawn Clark, 43, of Marrero, was sentenced Thursday (June 27) to 10 years in prison two days after a jury convicted him of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Clark’s conviction stems from a traffic stop initiated by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office on Westwood Drive in Marrero on Jan. 20, 2019. The deputies smelled marijuana in the car, arrested him and then found a pill bottle containing the methamphetamine, according to trial testimony.

Judge Frank Brindisi of the 24th Judicial District Court presided over the two-day trial that ended Tuesday (June 25) and sentenced Clark. A multiple bill hearing is scheduled for July 15.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.


Ex-gymnastics coach pleads guilty to molesting boys, sentenced to 65 years in prison

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (April 15) sentenced former gymnastics coach Jonathan M. West of Kenner to 65 years in prison, after West admitted he sexually exploited 13 boys under his care.

West, 27, pleaded guilty as charged to the offenses outlined in a 24-count bill of information. The victims were between the ages of eight and 15 when the abuse happened, beginning in 2015 and ending with his arrest on May 31, 2018, according to the bill of information.

West pleaded to:

  • Nine counts of indecent behavior with juveniles;
  • One count of indecent behavior with a juvenile under age 13;
  • Eight counts of sexual battery;
  • Two counts of oral sexual battery;
  • Three counts of sexual battery of a child under age 13; and,
  • One count of computer solicitation of a minor under age 13.

West’s sentences were:

  • 65 years for each of the sexual battery of juveniles under age 13;
  • 25 years for the indecent behavior with a juvenile under age 13;
  • 20 years for the computer solicitation of a minor under age 13;
  • 10 years for each of the sexual battery counts;
  • 10 years for each of the oral sexual battery counts; and,
  • Seven years for each of the indecent behavior with juvenile counts.

Judge Stephen Enright of the 24th Judicial District Court ran the sentences concurrently, for a total of 65 years.

Judge Enright also ordered that West be electronically monitored and to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, should he ever be released from prison. The judge additionally ordered that any of West’s electronics equipment used in the computer solicitation offense be seized and auctioned.

The judge heard impact statements from nine people, including six mothers of the victims who knew West as “Jonny.”

West worked as a gymnastics and cheerleading coach at businesses in Metairie, Kenner and St. Charles Parish. In some cases, he molested the victims while driving them to the gyms. In some cases, West told the victims that his actions would make them better at gymnastics.

Following West’s arrest, which was publicized in local news reports, more victims came forward, telling police they too were abused.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Zachary Popovich prosecuted the case.

Rushton, Schiffman receive ‘excellence’ award for double-murder prosecution

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Lynn Schiffman were among the recipients of the Metropolitan Crime Commission’s Excellence in Law Enforcement Awards. Members of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and Kenner Police Department also received the award.


The Metropolitan Crime Commission on Tuesday (Feb. 5) recognized assistant district attorneys Douglas Rushton and Lynn Schiffman for the prosecution of an Avondale man who was convicted last year of a double murder in Kenner.

Rushton and Schiffman were presented 2019 Excellence in Law Enforcement awards during the commission’s annual meeting and awards luncheon, held at the Sheraton in downtown New Orleans.

A Jefferson Parish jury in January 2018 convicted Shaun Barnett of two counts of first-degree murder for the April 4, 2016 deaths of Dawn Scott, 28, and Raynell Kimbrough, 31. The couple was in bed in their Kenner home early on the morning of April 4, 2016, when Barnett shot them. A child in the house heard the gunfire and escorted his younger brother outside; police found an uninjured infant on the bed next to Scott.

Barnett has been sentenced to life in prison.

Louisiana State Police investigator Leland “Corky” Dwight, Kenner Police Department Detective Harold P. Pendergast, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Capt. Dennis Thornton and the JPSO Crime Laboratory staff also received the award for their work in solving the double-murder.

The commission presents the awards in recognition of those who “performed extraordinary service” to criminal justice. The awardees have “a record of continuity and consistency of service and shall reflect the admirable quality of integrity, both personal and professional.”