Home » Archives for September 2016

Month: September 2016

Slidell Area Man Gets Life Sentence for 2011 Murder of Firefighter


Sept. 30, 2016

COVINGTON—Michael D. Lizana, 38, who lived just outside Slidell, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday (Sept. 29) after pleading guilty to first degree murder for fatally shooting a St. Tammany Parish firefighter and hiding his body in the trunk of a car in 2011. Lizana could have faced the death penalty if he had gone to trial in January before District Judge Martin E. Coady.

“This was the best possible outcome,” District Attorney Warren Montgomery said. “It spared the family the pain of a trial but delivered the justice that this defendant deserved. We hope it brings some peace and closure to the victim’s family to know that their loved one’s killer will spend the rest of his natural life in prison.”

The victim, David Smith, 43, was a battalion chief and 22-year veteran of the 1st Fire Protection District, serving Slidell and the surrounding areas. His stepdaughter, Daphne Daigle, testified during the court hearing that she was satisfied with the outcome of the case. She said in her Victim Impact Statement that Smith was a wonderful father and that she misses him every day.

Lizana had gone to Smith’s house on April 25, 2011, to discuss the possible sale of Smith’s Camaro. But neighbors called the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office after hearing four quick gunshots. When deputies arrived, Lizana was still there, but he lied and said he occasionally lived there. During a search of the home, officers discovered Smith’s body wrapped in plastic in the trunk of the Camaro, which was parked in the garage. Smith had been shot four times in the chest, shoulder, and head.

Lizana’s car was parked down the street, which led authorities to believe that the arrival of the deputies had interrupted Lizana’s plan to steal the car. Lizana confessed to the crime and was indicted by a grand jury in August 2011. His life sentence is without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.
Assistant District Attorneys Butch Wilson, Matthew Caplan, and Jerry Smith prosecuted the case.

Habitual Offender Gets Life Sentence for Raping Carnival Worker


COVINGTON— District Judge Scott Gardner sentenced Alvin Davis, 57, of Slidell, as an habitual offender to life in prison Monday (Sept. 26) for raping a 21-year-old woman who was part of a traveling carnival in 2014. A St. Tammany Parish jury found Davis guilty of forcible rape in June.

In a hearing before the sentencing, Davis admitted that his criminal history dates back to 1974. His record includes 13 prior felony convictions and one misdemeanor conviction. Assistant District Attorneys Jason Cuccia and Jerry Smith prosecuted the case, which had been dismissed earlier when the victim, who was living in the New England region, failed to appear for a hearing. District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s prosecutors filed new charges and continued to pursue the case.
“The victim was understandably reluctant to return to the state of Louisiana,” Montgomery said after the guilty verdict. “I’m very proud of our prosecutors and investigators, who went the extra mile to get her here and prove that this was a forcible rape. The jury saw through the attempts to blame the victim and cloud the facts. My office will continue to prosecute sexual predators to the fullest extent of the law.”

The victim had gone to Davis’s trailer with her boyfriend on Jan. 18, 2014, to buy marijuana, and the three of them—the victim, her boyfriend, and Davis—smoked together. When the boyfriend left to go to the store with two other men, Davis began making sexual advances towards the woman. She pushed him away, but he shoved her on the bed. When she tried to get up, he punched her in the face so hard that she fell to the floor. Davis then picked her up, pushed her on the bed and forcibly raped her. Afterwards, she left the trailer and walked to the trailer where she was staying.
The victim later told her boyfriend and friends, who took her to the hospital. The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office investigated the case. DNA evidence linked Davis to the victim.

Covington Man Pleads Guilty to 79 Counts of Child Pornography


COVINGTON—Christopher Cote, 33, of Covington, pleaded guilty Thursday (Sept. 22) to 79 counts of child pornography, which was discovered during an undercover investigation last year. District Judge Peter J. Garcia sentenced Cote to 18 years in prison without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

The case began with an investigation by the multi-agency Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in which an undercover officer identified Cote online as a potential child predator and engaged in chat room conversations with him about a year. Task force agents, representing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and Louisiana Attorney General’s Office (now the Louisiana Bureau of Investigation), then went to the defendant’s residence in April 2015. When Cote consented to allow the agents to look at his computer, they found a suspicious file and seized the laptop for further forensic examination. During the analysis, agents discovered 79 pornographic images of children, ranging in ages from toddler to 7 years old.
Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Authement prosecuted the case.

Slidell Man Pleads Guilty to Double Shooting in 2010


COVINGTON—Rhamad R. Jackson, 27, of Slidell, pleaded guilty Monday (Sept. 19) to two counts of manslaughter and one count of burglary of an inhabited dwelling for shooting two men and burglarizing the home of one of them nearly six years ago.

District Judge Reginald Badeaux sentenced Jackson to 20 years in prison without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence on each of the manslaughter charges and 10 years on the burglary charge. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

The shootings took place Dec. 9, 2010, when the victims, Adrian Thicklin and Olajuwon Johnson, were driving in Jackson’s neighborhood. About a month earlier, Thicklin’s home had been burglarized of video gaming equipment, and Thicklin suspected that Jackson was the culprit. Jackson later told police that he had heard Thicklin was looking for him.

Jackson said he was walking to a friend’s house on the night of the shootings, when he heard someone call to him from a car. When Jackson responded, he saw Thicklin pull out a handgun. Jackson then pulled out his own gun and fired, killing both men. Thicklin was found with eight gunshot wounds in the driver’s seat of a blue Lincoln Town car, and a gun was found next to him. Johnson was found with multiple gunshots a short distance from the car in a front yard. Police also found cocaine and marijuana in Thicklin’s vehicle.

Though witnesses heard the gunshots and saw Jackson running from the scene, there were no independent witnesses to the shooting. Jackson later turned himself in, surrendered his weapon and stated that he shot Thicklin and Johnson in self-defense. Property matching the description of Thicklin’s property was found in Jackson’s car.

Jackson was scheduled to go to trial Monday, when he entered the plea agreement. Assistant District Attorneys Blair Alford and Darrell Sims prosecuted the case.


District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s Statement on Civil Suit Ruling

I appreciate the time, effort, and commitment the judge gave to this case. It was important to me that my obligations under the law to serve as the legal adviser to parish government be clarified by the court. My conscience is clear that I did the right thing in filing this lawsuit, based on our interpretation of the law and the vote of the people rejecting Proposition 5 in November of 2015. In the coming days, I will analyze the judge’s ruling and make the appropriate decisions.

Please see the copy of the ruling by Ad Hoc Judge Marion F. Edwards of the 22nd Judicial District.

Bogalusa Man Interrupts Attempted Murder Trial to Plead Guilty


Bogalusa Man Interrupts Attempted Murder Trial to Plead Guilty

FRANKLINTON—Marcus Bullock, 31, of Bogalusa, pleaded guilty Thursday (Sept. 15) to two counts of attempted murder and one count of being a felon with a firearm for shooting a man over car repairs. Bullock’s trial was nearly complete when he decided to plead guilty.

If he is sentenced as a multiple offender in a hearing Sept. 27, he will receive 33 years and four months in prison without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

Bullock was arrested March 31, 2015, after pushing his way into the victim’s home to discuss a repair involving his ex-girlfriend’s car. Bullock demanded $60 for a part, but the victim declined to pay. The victim told Bullock that he would discuss the matter with the girlfriend the next day, but Bullock responded that “tomorrow’s not gonna get here.”

Bullock then pulled out a revolver and struck the victim in the face. Bullock pointed the gun at the victim’s head and pulled the trigger twice, but the gun did not fire. When Bullock pulled the trigger a third time, the gun discharged a bullet, which struck the victim’s cheek, traveled under the skin and exited the back of his head.

The victim and his fiancé fled, while Bullock also fired at the victim’s fiancé. The victims were present at the hearing and agreed to the plea.


Mandeville Man Found Guilty of Aggravated Second-Degree Battery


Mandeville Man Found Guilty of Aggravated Second-Degree Battery

COVINGTON—A St. Tammany Parish jury convicted Hardy Cornwell, 48, of Mandeville, of aggravated second-degree battery and attempted false imprisonment Thursday (Sept. 15) for severely beating his ex-girlfriend and restraining her with duct tape earlier this year on his boat at Marina Beau Chene. He faces up to 30 years in prison if he is charged as a multiple offender when he goes before District Judge Scott Gardner for sentencing on Sept. 26.

The crime was discovered March 8, after the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office received a report that the victim may be in danger and sent detectives to Cornwell’s boat to check on her. Cornwell initially refused to respond to the detectives’ knock on the side of the boat. But when the officer saw Cornwell through an open window, Cornwell complied and opened the hatch.

During questioning, Cornwell initially denied that the victim was in the boat. But officers heard a female voice crying out for help from inside. An officer entered the cabin, where he found the victim with a bruised and bloody face and duct tape stuck to her hair. She also had a fresh head wound, which later required eight surgical staples at the hospital.

The victim told officers that she had come to her ex-boyfriend’s boat the previous night, and that at one point the ex-boyfriend became enraged and attacked her. She told police that he held a knife to her neck and threatened to kill her, put duct tape around her head, covering her eyes and mouth, bound her wrists, beat her, and stabbed her in the hand with a filet knife.

The jury rejected Cornwell’s claims that he was not the one who inflicted her injuries and that he bound her because they sometimes engaged in unusual sexual behavior. But the jury reduced the false imprisonment with a dangerous weapon charge to attempted false imprisonment, which is a misdemeanor.

Assistant District Attorneys Casey Dieck and Jerry Smith prosecuted the case.

Cornwell has at least one prior conviction for manslaughter in Oklahoma in 2002, for which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was released after serving about nine years.


District Attorney’s Criminal Division Chief Receives Top FBI Award


Sept. 15, 2016

Collin Sims, Criminal Division Chief under District Attorney Warren Montgomery, received the 2016 FBI Directors Award Thursday (Sept. 15) in Washington, D.C., for his work as part of a team that investigated and prosecuted the violent Harvey Hustlers street gang in Jefferson Parish. Sims’ work on the case as an Assistant U.S. Attorney was among his final assignments before joining the Montgomery administration last year.

FBI Director James Comey presented the annual award, which is considered one of the most prestigious honors within the agency. Others who received it included FBI agents and employees, task force members from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, as well as prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office (Eastern District of Louisiana) and the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office.

The work of the task force and prosecutors over several years dismantled the Harvey Hustlers street gang and several of its spin-offs, resulting in the federal and state convictions of 65 people of a variety of drug and violent crimes, including murder in aid of racketeering and homicide. The sentences ranged from five years to life imprisonment. The murder rate in Jefferson Parish dropped 39 percent from the start of the investigation in 2009 through 2015, according to the FBI.

Eventually, 22 defendants were charged in a racketeering conspiracy that involved a drug operation.

The investigators and prosecutors also were recognized in February by the Metropolitan Crime Commission with the Excellence in Law Enforcement Award.