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State v. Sant

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

April 17, 2019





          Court composed of Elizabeth A. Pickett, D. Kent Savoie, and Jonathan W. Perry, Judges.


         On June 22, 2016, Defendant, Joshua D. Sant, was charged by bill of indictment with one count of second degree murder, in violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1; one count of conspiracy to commit second degree murder, in violation of La.R.S. 14:26 and 14:30.1; and one count of hate crimes, in violation of La.R.S. 14:107.2. On April 23, 2018, Defendant proceeded to trial on the second degree murder and conspiracy to commit second degree murder charges. On April 25, 2018, a unanimous jury found Defendant guilty as charged on both counts.

         On June 12, 2018, Defendant was sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment at hard labor for the murder of Chelsey Copling. In addition, he was sentenced to mandatory thirty years at hard labor for conspiracy to commit said murder with the sentences to run consecutively to each other. Defendant also received an additional thirty days for contempt of court after telling the trial court "y'all can go get fucked for all I care man."

         On July 2, 2018, Defendant filed a pro se "Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence," asking the trial court for a lesser sentence based on his status as a first offender and being sole provider for his family. On July 10, 2018, counsel filed a "Motion to Reconsider Sentence" on Defendant's behalf, alleging that running Defendant's sentences consecutively is excessive and requesting they be run concurrently as they arise out of a single course of action. During a hearing on the two motions on August 7, 2018, Defendant abandoned his pro se motion and joined in counsel's motion. The trial court denied the motion for reconsideration.

         Defendant now appeals his convictions and sentences, alleging insufficient evidence to support his convictions and arguing that the trial court's decision to run his sentences consecutively is excessive because they arose out of a single course of action.


         During the testimony of Detective Tracy Clark of the LaSalle Parish Sheriff's Office, the State introduced Defendant's April 26, 2016 videotaped confession to Detective Clark and Chief Deputy Jimmy Arbogast, as well as a transcript of said confession, as State's Exhibits 4 and 5, respectively.

         APRIL 26, 2016 CONFESSION

         After being informed of his Miranda rights, Defendant agreed to talk with Detective Clark and Deputy Arbogast about the day two people, Demond Carter and Chelsey Copling, went missing. Defendant stated that he went to Thomas Aubrey's house to eat some shrimp for Chelsey's birthday. He said he did not know Chelsey or Demond very well but he knew "you call him D and her Chelsey." Defendant said the couple complained about not having fun since they had arrived in the area, so Defendant invited them to come to his house to "play some beer pong and some Uno." He stated that Austin Dyess, his co-defendant, was at his house along with a few other people named Rose, Nathan, and Defendant's uncle, Bobby Sant.

         According to Defendant, Demond told him they left Texas to get clean and get away from dope, but then Chelsey started trying to smoke marijuana, which Defendant took away and gave back to Demond. Around 11:15 p.m., Defendant stated that they decided to head home and that Defendant was going to give them a ride because they were drunk. Defendant also stated that his wife, [1] Katy, stayed inside because she did not really like the couple. Defendant claimed that Austin informed him Chelsey had thrown her purse in Defendant's truck and then they left the house on foot. Defendant stated he looked for the couple, but he could not find them. Defendant acknowledged he was a little drunk as they had consumed "a thirty pack [of beer] and another case," as well as some whiskey.

         Defendant stated he had brought his Uncle Bobby to Defendant's parents' home in Winn Parish earlier in the day but stated he did not go to their house the night of the shootings. He claimed to have no idea about what had happened to the couple after they left his home. When Detective Clark asked Defendant why he had buried a plastic box in his back yard, Defendant stated he gave the box, which contained bullets and shell casings, to Austin a few weeks prior, and Austin buried it in his back yard because he "got scared of everything that's going on."

At that point, Detective Clark told Defendant:
Did you see those stars as I was putting them? Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Those things I can prove wrong. So listen to me, listen to me. Before you get mad and aggravated and you're looking at me like that, ok, just know that I already know a lot of stuff, ok. We had to double bag those bodies, because they stunk, and they're falling to pieces. Ok, it's pretty sad, but that's what we had to do today. When you called me on the phone, I was looking for them, and I found them, ok. But I hadn't found them yet, when I talked to you on the phone. I still wanted to talk to you, because I didn't know if they were alive, or dead. They put you in handcuffs when you drove up, because at that point, I knew they were dead.

         Defendant then told Detective Clark the following story, placing all of the blame on Austin Dyess:

Ok. We rode down to the pond about 10:30, 11:00 and we got out and we was [sic] looking around because they hadn't been to no pond or anything around here. Him and Austin got into an argument and the next thing I know, he used my 44 that was laying in the seat, and shot both of them. And it scared me, it's [sic] really scared me. And I . . . I don't want to loose [sic] my family over this and that's why I tried to be quiet because I don't know what's going on and I don't know what he is capable of. And I'm telling you the truth.

         Defendant then stated that Austin threw the 44 into the pond where the bodies had been dumped. When asked where the second gun was, Defendant stated, "If there's two guns, I don't know about two guns. I had two pistols in the truck." He subsequently stated "I didn't kill them, I didn't kill nobody. You can put me on a lie detector test." He stated he kept a 44, a 22 Taurus, and a 12-gauge shotgun in his truck at all times but noted only the 12-gauge was currently in the vehicle. Defendant again claimed Austin threw the guns in the water. Claiming he never left the vehicle, Defendant told Detective Clark the following version of what happened between Austin and the couple:

I know he had one [gun] in one hand. I know that for a fact, and then they started arguing and I heard two shots, then I heard three. And I told him I said let's get out of here, please. And I went to the house and I called Thomas.

         Defendant told Detective Clark that after Austin killed the couple, he threw their bodies into the pond on his own, then came back to the truck, and they left. After some discussion of Defendant's story not matching up with what Detective Clark already knew, Defendant gave the following version of what happened at the pond:

Well I want to tell you the truth 100%. I always have my 22 in my pocket at all times and I guess he got that 44 out of the truck for some stupid reason, I don't know. We went over there and we was looking around and him and that boy got in an argument and that boy had actually taken, started trying to take the pistol away from Austing [sic] and all ...

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