APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF ST. CHARLES, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 17, 560, DIVISION
"E" HONORABLE TIMOTHY S. MARCEL, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Joel T.
Chaisson, II, Louis G. Authement
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, DANIEL BECKLEY Daniel
Beckley, Gwendolyn K. Brown
composed of Judges Marc E. Johnson, Stephen J. Windhorst, and
John J. Molaison, Jr.
STEPHEN J. WINDHORST, JUDGE
Daniel Beckley, appeals his convictions and sentences for
second degree murder and obstruction of justice, asserting
that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions
and that the appellate record is incomplete. For the
following reasons, we affirm defendant's convictions and
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was indicted by a grand jury on September 29, 2017 and
charged with the second degree murder of Jorion White
("Miss White" or the "victim") in
violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1 and obstruction of justice in
violation of La. R.S. 14:130.1(A)(1)(a). Defendant pled not
guilty, waived his right to a jury trial and proceeded to
trial before the trial judge on October 10-13, 2017. After
trial, the trial judge found defendant guilty as charged. On
November 7, 2017, defendant filed a Motion for New Trial and
a Motion for Post-Verdict Judgment of Acquittal, both of
which were denied.
December 12, 2017, the trial judge sentenced defendant to
life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole,
probation, or suspension of sentence for the second degree
murder conviction and imprisonment at hard labor for thirty
years without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of
sentence for the obstruction of justice conviction, with the
sentence imposed for obstruction of justice to be served
consecutively to the sentence imposed for second degree
murder. Defendant filed a Motion for Reconsideration of
Sentence, which was denied.
convictions are based on the following facts. On April 22,
2016, Michelle Price and defendant, Ms. Price's live-in
boyfriend of nine years, went to the Kenner Police Department
(KPD) and reported that Miss White, Ms. Price's
sixteen-year-old daughter, was missing from their home in
Kenner. They advised Deputy Gabriel Castro that defendant had
last seen Miss White at home that morning at approximately
2:45 A.M., and that she was not at home when he returned at
3:15 P.M. Deputy Castro testified that defendant pulled him
off to the side and told him that Miss White was known to
associate herself with alleged drug dealers. The deputy
subsequently advised Ms. Price and defendant that Miss White
would be entered into the National Crime Information Center
database as a runaway juvenile. Deputy Castro noted that Ms.
Price appeared to be calm, but that defendant looked nervous
White's body was found on April 24, 2016 by a family that
spotted a nude body in the ditch on St. Rose Avenue in St.
Charles Parish. They pulled over and called 9-1-1. After
confirming that there was a body in the water, Deputy
Randolph McClendon of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's
Office (SCPSO) informed dispatch that there was a body.
Deputy Scott Harrell responded, shut down the road, contacted
detectives, and started a "crime scene log."
Detectives posted information on their Facebook page in an
attempt to identify the body, specifically, that the body was
a black female with green and pink curlers in her hair. Ms.
Price contacted SCPSO and informed detectives that she
believed the body was her daughter. Dental records later
confirmed that the body was that of Miss White, Ms.
Price's minor daughter.
Marianna Eserman, the Deputy Coroner for Jefferson Parish,
performed an autopsy on the victim and found that her body
was in an advanced state of decomposition with extensive
breakdown of her tissues. At trial, Dr. Eserman testified
that the victim's body was so decomposed that they were
unable to tell what specific injury caused her death, but
concluded that the cause of death was homicidal violence of
unknown means and the manner of death was homicide. She
stated that strangulation or suffocation could not be ruled
out. Elizabeth Hamilton, a DNA analyst at the Louisiana State
Police Crime Lab, was accepted as an expert in the field of
forensic DNA. Ms. Hamilton testified that she examined
several items, including a sexual assault kit from the
victim, a sheet from her bed, a pair of blue jeans found in
defendant's car and oral swabs from defendant. Based on
her analysis, there was a very high probability that the
seminal fluid found in the victim's cervical, perineal,
and anal areas belonged to defendant.
Aaron Savoie testified that he obtained a search warrant for
Ms. Price's residence, where defendant resided. He
testified that when they arrived at Ms. Price's
residence, the street was filled with people who were saying,
"He did it, he killed the girl," and that those
people were referring to defendant. Detective Dewhirst
testified that those people were trying to get to defendant
and kill him, and that when they arrived, the door of the
residence had been kicked in.
April 24, 2016, Jason Troxler, a SCPSO crime scene
technician, took photographs and collected evidence at the
St. Rose Avenue crime scene, where the victim's body was
found, and at her residence. Mr. Troxler testified that he
took photographs of the tire impressions located in the
grassy area between St. Rose Avenue and the drainage ditch,
and that he recovered a green bungee cord from near the ditch
in close proximity to the body. He noted that the black cap
was missing from one of the hooks on that bungee cord. Mr.
Troxler also identified photographs he took of
defendant's wrists, which had marks on them. Dr. Eserman,
the coroner, testified that the marks on defendant's
wrists could be consistent with fingernail scratches.
victim's residence, Mr. Troxler took photographs of
defendant's 2002 Cadillac and the residence. He found a
bag of curlers or rollers inside a dresser and a package of
bungee cords inside a kitchen drawer. Mr. Troxler identified
a photograph of a black cap that was found inside
defendant's trunk, the black cap itself, and a photograph
of water bottles defendant kept in his vehicle. Mr. Troxler
measured the tires on defendant's vehicle and identified
photographs of his measurements.
Joseph Dewhirst, the lead detective investigating this
homicide, testified that he compared the tire marks on the
road where the body was found to the tires on defendant's
vehicle, and found the tires marks and defendant's tires
were very similar. Detective Dewhirst also testified that he
took a videotaped statement from defendant, which was played
at trial. In the statement, defendant asserted that Miss
White was having sex with three or four boys and that she
"slipped back into doing some of the things she had been
doing," specifically some "stupid" things,
such as setting up boys to get beaten up. Defendant suggested
that something possibly happened to her out of retaliation.
Defendant also said during his statement, "What are you
not getting from me?" and that he hoped that she
"changed her mind," "tried to fight him
off," and "went down swinging." Defendant
further told Detective Dewhirst that he did not engage in
sexual activity with the victim and that he did not know what
happened to her. He said that he told Miss White goodbye
before he left for work at approximately 2:00 to 2:30 A.M. on
April 22, 2016.
to Detective Dewhirst, defendant said the scratches on his
wrists were made by people trying to get into the house.
Detective Dewhirst testified that he found out from Ms. Price
that she and defendant had recently purchased the bungee
cords from a U-Haul store. Although the box of bungee cords
was supposed to contain several different colors and sizes,
the box found in the kitchen drawer was missing all of the
green bungee cords. Detective Dewhirst stated that the bag of
curlers retrieved by Mr. Troxler contained all green rollers
and the pink ones were missing from the bag. He explained
that the pink rollers were in the victim's hair and that
one green roller was found at the crime scene on St. Rose
Dewhirst testified that they found a pair of blue jeans and a
black rubber cap in defendant's trunk, and that they
suspected the rubber cap was the missing cap for the green
bungee cord that they found at the St. Rose crime scene. When
he called Ms. Price, she told him that she had not had
contact with defendant since the night they came to
headquarters, and that she would not allow defendant to come
back to the house. Detective Dewhirst maintained that once he
obtained the DNA results, he knew defendant was lying when he
said there had been no sexual contact between him and the
on surveillance footage,  the police found that defendant's
actions and whereabouts on the night and following morning of
Miss White's disappearance were as follows. Because
defendant's vehicle had a very distinctive tail strip on
the trunk which could be seen on the video, police were able
to follow its route. Between 11:15 P.M. and 12:15 A.M.,
defendant's vehicle was pulled in with its
"nose" to the house in the yard of his residence
and defendant was backing the car out, turning it around, and
then reversing it into the driveway by the side door. After
defendant turned his vehicle around at 12:13 A.M., the lights
then went out. At 12:25 A.M., the headlights came on, and
defendant's vehicle traveled down Phoenix Street toward
27th Street. At 12:35 A.M., defendant's
vehicle turned around and headed back toward the area where
the victim's body was found.
12:57 A.M., defendant stopped at a Discount Zone to get gas
and air; and while there, opened his trunk, manipulated
something white, and readjusted things. The detective noticed
from the video that defendant's vehicle did not turn very
well due to the extra wide tires. At 1:05 A.M.,
defendant's vehicle returned home, pulling in straight.
Defendant left again at 2:30 A.M. for work.
Dewhirst further testified that he showed Ms. Price a video
of the neighborhood children walking to the bus stop on the
morning of April 22, 2016, and that Ms. Price stated Miss
White was not in that video. This was confirmed by Ms. Price
during her testimony.
fact witnesses testified at trial: Ms. Price, Tara Collins,
Debbie Bordelon, Nicole Celestine, ...