FROM THE THIRTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF VERNON,
NO. 86778 HONORABLE VERNON B. CLARK, DISTRICT JUDGE
Annette F. Roach Louisiana Appellate Project Post Office Box
1747 COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Cassandra Ward
Asa Allen Skinner District Attorney Thirtieth Judicial
District Court Post Office Box 1188 COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE:
State of Louisiana
composed of John D. Saunders, Marc T. Amy, and D. Kent
KENT SAVOIE JUDGE
Cassandra Ward, was indicted for obstruction of justice for
tampering with evidence, a violation of La.R.S.
14:130.1(A)(1)(a), on September 4, 2014. She was originally
arrested for second degree murder, a violation of La.R.S.
14:30.1, however, the grand jury indicted her on the lesser
charge. Her co-defendant, Jose Israel Ayala, III, was
indicted for second degree murder and obstruction of justice.
Another co-defendant, Matthew David Andrews, was also
indicted for obstruction of justice.
originally entered a plea of not guilty but changed her plea
to guilty as charged on September 2, 2016. Defendant had
previously filed an amended a motion to suppress; that motion
was dismissed at Defendant's request during the plea
hearing. The trial court sentenced Defendant to thirty years
at hard labor, with credit for time served, and ordered to
pay $150 for preparation of her presentence investigation
(PSI) report. Defendant filed a motion to reconsider her
sentence, and the trial court denied it on July 5, 2017,
indicating it had already considered the factors listed in
counsel has filed a brief pursuant to Anders v.
California, 386 U.S. 738, 87 S.Ct. 1396 (1967), alleging
no non-frivolous issues exist on which to base an appeal and
seeking to withdraw as Defendant's counsel. We grant
counsel's motion to withdraw and affirm Defendant's
conviction and sentence as discussed below.
State submitted this factual basis for Defendant's guilty
plea at the plea hearing:
[D]uring a period of March 29th, 2014[, ] the
defendant, Cassandra Ward, did obstruct justice in that she
did tamper with evidence which was reasonably relevant to a
criminal investigation or proceeding with knowledge that such
acts or act, uh, would reasonably make or would have an
effect on an actual or potential present, past, or future
criminal investigation with the specific intent to distort
the results of that criminal proceeding in that she did
remove and, uh, move and did remove evidence of the second
degree murder of James Stephens. In particular, the State
would contend that the defendant was present at 2490 Bailey
Road when the victim arrived at that location - Mr. James
Stephens - and was killed by an individual and co[-]defendant
named "Jose Ayala." This was the second degree
murder of Mr. Stephens. After the defendant, Cassandra Ward,
did, with the specific intent to distort results of the
subsequent criminal investigation did tamper with evidence by
aiding in the removal of the body of Mr. James Stephens from
2490 Bailey Road in Vernon Parish to a location off Highway
1211 in Vernon Parish, Louisiana. Thereafter she did return
to 2490 Bailey Road, the murder scene, uh, located here in
Vernon Parish and did proceed to clean evidence of the murder
by using bleach, uh, to clean the porch of the home, by using
bleach to - to clean - to clean blood from the premises, uh,
ultimately, uh, having bleach make contact with her shoes and
subsequently the State recovered those said shoes from Mrs.
Ward. Also, the State would contend that she did, uh, take
the weapons and the digging im - implements from that
location and did dispose of them at a location over in Texas,
which were ultimately recovered. Uh, the State would also
contend that, at some point thereafter of March the
29th, 2014, that she did return to the body of Mr.
Stephens located out at 1211 and did, at some point, along
with the co[-]defendant did tamper with the body. Uh,
subsequent to her arrest, she did give statements, uh,
supporting the facts that I've, uh, recited here in this
court, uh, on several occasions.
counsel did not dispute the recitation of the facts. When the
trial judge asked Defendant directly if those facts were
correct, she responded, "Yes, sir."
accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, we review all
appeals for errors patent on the face of the record. After