FROM THE TWELFTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF AVOYELLES,
NO. 2013-CR-176957 HONORABLE WILLIAM BENNETT, DISTRICT JUDGE.
Charles A. Riddle, III District Attorney, Twelfth Judicial
District Court COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE.
of Louisiana Edward Kelly Bauman Louisiana Appellate Project
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT Willie Lee Price, Jr. Willie
Price Willie Lee Price, Jr.
composed of Marc T. Amy, Billy Howard Ezell, and Shannon J.
SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE.
November 14, 2013, Defendant, Willie Lee Price, Jr., a.k.a.
Willie Price, along with codefendants Asa Bentley, Donnie
Edwards, Chadwick McGhee, and Tamika Williams, were charged
by bill of indictment with the second degree kidnapping of
Jessica Guillot, in violation of La.R.S.
14:44.1. On March 11, 2015, following a two-day
trial, a unanimous jury found Defendant guilty as charged.
April 12, 2016, Defendant was granted an out-of-time appeal
and appointed appellate counsel. On August 4, 2016, Defendant
was once again granted an out-of-time appeal. He now seeks
review of his conviction and sentence, alleging three
assignments of error.
victim, Jessica Guillot, went missing from Simmesport,
Louisiana in September 2013 and has not been seen since.
Laura Stelly, the victim's mother, testified that she
last saw her daughter on September 6, 2013, around 8:00 p.m.
She testified that, when she saw her daughter, nothing seemed
out of the ordinary. Stelly noted that her daughter had run
off for an extended period once before.
Cooper, the victim's fiancé, testified that the
last time he saw her was September 6, 2013. The remainder of
Cooper's testimony on direct examination related to a
ride home he received from Bentley and McGhee on September 7,
2013. Cooper testified on cross-examination that he had never
seen the victim and Defendant together.
Crystal, Jr., testified that he knew the victim, Bentley, and
Defendant, and that Defendant and Bentley are brothers. The
remainder of Crystal's testimony concerned an incident
wherein he alerted Bentley to the presence of the victim near
his home. However, Crystal specifically noted that Defendant
had "no part" in any of the events about which
Mason, Bentley's girlfriend in September 2013, testified
that Defendant and Bentley were brothers and that Defendant
would occasionally stay at her and Bentley's residence.
She testified that Bentley sold drugs for a living. She also
testified that, on September 10, 2013, she found out that her
Dodge Durango had been damaged, and that Bentley had driven
it the night before. She testified that Bentley had come home
around midnight, and that the next morning her son informed
her that the truck had been damaged. Mason testified that
they thought the truck had been vandalized, since there was
paint on the outside of the truck, the seats had been dyed
blue inside, the back window was shattered, and three of the
tires were flat.
testified that Bentley told her that on September 9, 2013, he
had been with his cousin, Chase, and Crystal. Mason said that
Bentley did not mention being with Defendant, nor did Mason
see Defendant that day.
Williams, a codefendant in this case, testified to the
details of her plea agreement; namely, that in exchange for
truthful testimony against her codefendants, she would be
allowed to plead guilty to obstruction of justice, receive a
ten-year hard-labor sentence, and that upon the completion of
the last codefendant's trial or plea, the district
attorney's office would move to have her sentence reduced
to time-served and she would be released. She then testified
that she has previously been a drug addict who had problems
with pills and cocaine, and that she knew Bentley because she
had sex with him and purchased drugs from him.
testified about seeing Bentley chase the victim "[i]n
Simmesport on the back roads by the church, " but stated
Bentley failed to catch the victim. She also stated Bentley
was looking for the victim because he claimed the victim
stole cocaine and money from him. Williams described later
going for a ride with Bentley from Simmesport towards Mansura
on Louisiana Highway 1. She stated that while she and Bentley
were riding around, Defendant called Bentley and told him to
meet Defendant in Mansura. Williams also stated that she
heard Defendant ask Bentley why Williams was with him and
tell him that she was not supposed to be there. She testified
that they travelled to the "Y Not Stop" on Highway
1 in Mansura, where they met a small silver car on the side
of the road.
testified that she heard the victim yelling at Bentley to
"stop pulling on [her], let [her] go." She
testified that she saw Defendant get out of the driver's
seat of the car and push the victim, but then Defendant
stopped. Williams testified that Donnie Edwards then got out
of the silver car and got in the driver's seat of the
Durango she and Bentley had originally been driving, and that
Bentley shoved the victim into the back of the Durango and
got on top of her. Williams said that the silver car then
made a U-turn and headed back towards Simmesport with the
testified that she saw what appeared to be Bentley choking
the victim in the back of the Durango and heard what sounded
like someone "slapping or hitting her, " but
claimed that she never turned around completely, so she did
not know for sure what was happening. She stated that after a
few minutes, she heard what sounded like glass breaking, then
smelled a funny smell "[l]ike when somebody go [sic] to
the bathroom on they [sic] self." Williams testified
that she was scared and texted her sister during the ride
back to Simmesport, at the end of which Edwards and Bentley
dropped her off at her apartment. She further stated that as
soon as she was dropped off, she grabbed her baby and went to
her mother's house, which was around eight minutes away.
Shortly thereafter, the Durango showed up at her mother's
house, and Bentley, Edwards, Chadwick McGhee, and Defendant
got out of the vehicle. She stated that Defendant complained
she was not supposed to be there, and that she subsequently
began to see Defendant every day.
first call to police, in which she pretended to be her
children's babysitter, Bonita Robinson, was played to the
jurors, and Williams testified that she pretended to be
Robinson because she was scared. She acknowledged that she
spoke to the police multiple times before she ever admitted
that she was in the Dodge Durango, or gave the testimony she
presented at trial.
cross-examination, Williams acknowledged that, during a prior
trial, she never mentioned Defendant being "involved
with placing [the victim] in the back of th[e Durango.]"
She also acknowledged that, while in prison, she sent a
letter to Bentley in which she claimed she had not told the
police anything because "how can [she] say anything