A man accused in the slaying of his former girlfriend and her 3-year-old son at a BREC park near Zachary in 2008 learned Friday that his capital murder trial will begin March 4.
State District Judge Tony Marabella also scheduled a pretrial conference Feb. 8 in the case of Dominique Dantoni Smith, 31, of Wilson.
Smith is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the May 4, 2008, killing of Jessica Johnson Palmer, 23, of Baker, and Juan Palmer Jr. at Doyle’s Bayou Park on Pride-Port Hudson Road.
Smith also is charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder of two of Palmer’s children: Paige Johnson, who was 4 years old at the time, and Robbyn Palmer, who was 6 months old. Paige, whose throat was slit in the attack, and Robbyn were left overnight in the park for dead.
The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office intends to seek the death penalty. Smith previously turned down an offer to plead guilty in return for a sentence of life in prison.
Smith’s girlfriend, Trendall Lashel Matthews, 25, of Jackson, pleaded guilty in the case last year to two counts each of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in exchange for a life term. She agreed to testify against Smith.
Smith and Palmer were once romantically involved and had a child together. Matthews and Jessica Palmer are cousins.
Sheriff’s detectives have testified previously that Smith implicated himself and Matthews in the attacks.
At Matthews’ guilty plea hearing last year, prosecutor Darwin Miller said an altercation and argument erupted involving Smith, Palmer and Matthews, and Smith knocked Palmer to the ground and cut her throat. While Palmer was on the ground, the prosecutor said, Matthews used her feet to hold Palmer down while Smith continued to cut her.
Matthews also admitted she held Paige Johnson and Juan Palmer Jr. when Smith cut them, Miller said.
Daryl Gold, one of Smith’s attorneys, has said previously in court that Paige Johnson told police and others in 2008 that a “lady” cut her mother and brother. The child also picked the woman out of a lineup, Gold said.
Smith told detectives he and Matthews bought a baseball bat and lighter fluid before meeting Palmer and her children at the park, according to an arrest affidavit. Smith said he and Palmer went for a walk, during which he grabbed her hands while Matthews attacked her, the affidavit says. Smith said he and Matthews purchased new clothes at an area store and used the lighter fluid to burn the clothes they were wearing, the affidavit states.