A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday night (Feb. 10) found Terrell Nix guilty in the death of an autistic, intellectually disabled man with limited communication skills whose disabilities left him completely dependent on the care of others.
Nix, 36, of Gretna, was convicted as charged of the second-degree murder of Rohn Brinker, 46, who died May 14, 2019, in the Terrytown apartment where he lived. Nix was employed by his mother, Denise Nix, who operated a home-healthcare company that provided Brinker with 24-hour care.
Nix worked the overnight shifts. A half-hour after his shift began on May 13, 2019, Nix used his cell phone to make a video of Brinker, who appeared terrified, whose lip was bloodied and stood zombie-like in responding to Nix’s barked orders, according to the video that was shown to jurors.
Two hours later, Nix called his mother, who in turn went to Brinker’s Holmes Boulevard apartment. Shortly after, she called 911, saying Brinker had fallen in the bathtub and was unresponsive.
During the autopsy, forensic pathologist Dana Troxclair found that Brinker had ligature wounds on his neck, suggesting strangulation; that a rib on his right side had been broken and punctured his lung; and that he suffered deep skin hemorrhages and brain swelling. He additionally had injuries suggesting he had been dragged across the floor and bruising on his arms suggestive of defensive wounds.
Dr. Troxclair determined that the cause of death was strangulation and blunt force trauma. She classified the death as a homicide, leading to Nix’s arrest and indictment for second-degree murder.
Investigators found blood spatter on bathroom walls and the vanity mirror and evidence of someone trying to clean it up.
Nix underwent more than seven hours of interrogation by Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives, during which he told numerous lies, according to testimony. He did not testify during the trial, and his attorney argued that the evidence needed to charge his client was lacking.
Neighbors who deputies interviewed described hearing what sounded like “a war zone” in Brinker’s apartment, Detective Anthony Buttone testified. Another neighbor who had observed Nix and Brinker interacting likened it to military “boot camp,” according to testimony.
Denise Nix, his mother, was initially booked with manslaughter and obstruction of justice in connection with the incident. Charges were refused because of insufficient evidence.
The jury that was seated on Monday returned with the unanimous guilty verdict after about one hour of deliberation.
Judge Nancy Miller of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Nix on Feb. 22. Second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Assistant District Attorneys Joshua Vanderhooft and Matthew Whitworth prosecuted the case.