BY JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate staff writer
June 23, 2012
Erika Turner’s mother and Christopher Jason Domingue’s father said justice was served Thursday night when a jury convicted Leandre Bell of second-degree murder in the 2010 slayings of Turner and Domingue, the brother-in-law of former Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff.
The East Baton Rouge Parish jury of eight women and four men deliberated for two hours before finding Bell, 24, of Baton Rouge, guilty on two counts of second-degree murder, one count of armed robbery and three counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The verdicts were 11-1 on each count.
Prosecutor Adam Haney had urged the jury to tell Bell “your reign of terror in the city of Baton Rouge is over.”
State District Judge Tony Marabella will sentence Bell on Aug. 10. Second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Turner, 44, was shot to death July 27, 2010, on Yorktown Drive in the College Drive area.
“We loved her. She was a loving person. She didn’t deserve for this to happen,” Dorothy Turner said outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse after the verdicts were announced at 7:45 p.m.
“Justice was served. I think it’s going to be better now,” she added.
Domingue, 45, was fatally shot Sept. 4, 2010, on West Roosevelt Street between Nicholson Drive and River Road.
“It was a really sad week,” Marius Domingue Sr. said. “It will never be behind me.”
“I’m very pleased with the verdict, very pleased,” he noted.
LeDuff was police chief when he got the call that his brother-in-law had been murdered.
“It shattered my world,” he recalled.
“I can breathe again. This one is to rest. I’m a relieved man,” LeDuff said shortly after Bell was convicted.
Dorothy Turner, Marius Domingue and LeDuff each thanked the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office and the Baton Rouge Police Department.
“I’ve never been more proud,” LeDuff said.
Bell took the stand in his own defense earlier Thursday and pointed the finger at his cousin, Farrenton Joshua, who pleaded guilty in March as an accessory to second-degree murder and armed robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Bell testified he saw Joshua shoot Domingue. Bell said he was not present when Turner was killed.
He also said Joshua told him he killed Turner.
Bell’s DNA was found inside Domingue’s pockets, which were turned out when his body was found.
Joshua, 23, testified Wednesday he saw Bell shoot Turner, and that he heard the shots that killed Domingue but did not actually see his cousin pull the trigger.
In his closing arguments Thursday to the jury, Haney called Bell’s testimony “a tale spun to deceive you.” Melissa Morvant also prosecuted the case.
Haney said Bell demonstrated a “complete disregard for human life and the rules we all must live by” on July 27 and Sept. 4 of 2010.
“Leandre Bell cares about no one but himself. We’re here because he takes what he wants, and he doesn’t care who gets in the way,” the prosecutor said, turning and pointing at Bell. “Bad things happen when people come into contact with Leandre Bell.”
The prosecutor said Bell killed Domingue for a cellphone, lighter and half a pack of cigarettes.
The purse Turner had minutes before she was killed was never found.
Bell confessed to detectives on Sept. 4, 2010, that he killed Domingue; he also confessed on Sept. 15, 2010, that he murdered Turner. The jury saw the videotaped confessions Wednesday.
Bell testified Thursday he was under the influence of drugs on Sept. 4, 2010.
He said he confessed to killing Turner because detectives told him what to say and promised to help him.
Bell was convicted of aggravated battery, a felony, in 2005 in state district court in Baton Rouge.