FROM THE TWENTY-EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
LASALLE, NO. 16-838 HONORABLE J. CHRISTOPHER PETERS, DISTRICT
K. Bauman Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Austin W. Dyess.
Reed Walters District Attorney Twenty-Eighth Judicial
District COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana.
composed of Billy Howard Ezell, Phyllis M. Keaty, and Van H.
Austin W. Dyess, appeals his convictions for second degree
murder and conspiracy to commit second degree murder. For the
reasons set forth herein, we affirm.
OF THE RECORD
22, 2016, a grand jury indicted Defendant on one count of
second degree murder, in violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1; and
one count of conspiracy to commit second degree murder,
violations of La.R.S. 14:26 and 14:30.1. On September 25,
2017, Defendant proceeded to trial, and on September 27,
2017, a unanimous jury found Defendant guilty as charged on
December 5, 2017, Defendant was sentenced to serve life
imprisonment at hard labor for the second degree murder
conviction, as well as thirty years imprisonment at hard
labor for the conspiracy to commit murder. The sentences were
ordered to run concurrently, and the life sentence was to be
served without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of
sentence. Defendant did not file a motion to reconsider
facts as presented at trial established that on April 24,
2016, the victim, Demond Garner, and his girlfriend, Chelsea
Copling, both residents of Texas, attended a small party at
the home of Joshua Sant in Tullos, LaSalle Parish. The couple
left the party with Mr. Sant and Defendant and were
subsequently found dead from gunshot wounds on April 27,
LaSalle Parish Sheriffs Office (LPSO) initially received a
report of the missing couple on April 25, 2016, from the
Tullos Police Department, and began an investigation, which
led detectives to the home of Mr. Sant as being the last
place that the couple was seen. They discovered that
Defendant was present at the home the night that the couple
went missing. During the course of the investigation,
Defendant gave a series of statements to the detectives with
LPSO, which will be discussed separately.
April 26, 2016, Defendant provided a written statement to
Chief of Police Gary McDaniel of the Tullos Police Department
and LPSO Deputy Joseph Cain, in which he claimed that he was
at Mr. Sant's house along with a "couple,"
later identified as the murder victims. He further stated
that they were all playing a game of beer pong when the
couple said they were ready to go home and began walking down
the road alone. Defendant claimed that he and Mr. Sant
"went looking for them" and when they could not
locate them, they "called someone that knew them to tell
him that they had left."
April 27, 2016, LPSO Detective Tracy Clark began
investigating the disappearance of Mr. Garner and Ms.
Copling. He travelled to Joshua Sant's residence in
Tullos, where he spoke with Defendant, who was present when
Detective Clark arrived. Detective Clark testified that
Defendant advised him that, "He had last seen them leave
the residence walking up Park Street towards Highway 125, the
night, during the night, and they were inebriated when they
left the residence." According to Detective Clark, that
statement was the same as the verbal account he had received
from Mr, Sant.
on April 27, 2016, Defendant gave a recorded statement to
Detective Clark and Detective Brant King, after being
Mirandized,  in which he initially denied knowing
anything about the couple's whereabouts after they left
Mr. Sant's house. Shortly thereafter, he claimed that he
blacked out after going to Mr. Sant's house and drinking
and did not recall what occurred, but then later stated,
"I think I shot the black boy." He initially denied
knowing where the shooting occurred, but then later during
his statement, he led law enforcement, including Detectives
Clark and Richard Smith, to the location where the bodies of
the victims were found. Defendant stated that he thought Mr.
Garner came at him because he "tried to put the gun to
his head or something?" He further stated that Mr.
Garner tried to take the gun from him, so he "pulled
back and [he] shot [Mr. Garner] in the head." After
Defendant shot Mr. Garner once in the head, Defendant said
that he shot Mr. Garner two more times to make sure he was
dead. He stated that Mr. Sant then shot Ms. Copling. Shortly
thereafter, Defendant stated that he also shot Ms. Copling.
Defendant said that someone had mentioned to Mr. Sant that
Mr. Garner was a child molester and that may have made him
mad, but he did not remember asking Mr. Garner about the
truth of this claim. He further admitted they took the
victims out into the woods to scare them because of this,
after which he claimed that things got out of hand. Defendant
then admitted that he and Mr. Sant had made a pact not to
tell anyone what had happened. After the victims were
located, Defendant was transported back to the local jail.
at approximately 11:44 p.m. on April 27, 2016, Detective
Jimmy Arbogast and Detective Clark again interviewed
Defendant, after advising him again of his Miranda
rights. During this statement, Defendant admitted that he had
attempted to hide information about the details of the ...