Court rejects Guillory appeal

Suspected serial killer’s murder conviction, life term affirmed

An appellate court on Friday upheld suspected serial killer Jeffery Lee Guillory’s second-degree murder conviction and life prison term in the 2002 strangulation of a 46-year-old Baton Rouge woman.

A three-judge panel of the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal rejected Guillory’s argument that the evidence presented at his 2011 jury trial was not sufficient to support his conviction in the killing of Renee Newman. The panel noted that Guillory’s DNA profile was found on Newman’s breast, bra and right hand, even though he repeatedly denied knowing her.

The judges likewise dismissed Guillory’s contention that state District Judge Tony Marabella erred in allowing the admission of “other crimes evidence” — including the 1999 killing of Florida Edwards, 36, of Baton Rouge — at his trial last year in the slaying of Newman. Guillory’s DNA also was found on Edwards’ body.

The appeals court judges also said Marabella was correct in not allowing the defense to present to the jury a theory that convicted Baton Rouge serial murderer Sean Vincent Gillis may have been responsible for killing Newman. Marabella essentially ruled that Gillis, who reportedly associated with Newman, is irrelevant to the case.

Baton Rouge police Sgt. Chris Johnson testified at a pretrial hearing in the Guillory case that he interviewed Gillis in 2004, but Gillis never confessed to killing Newman or Edwards. Johnson said Gillis was never considered more than a “person of interest’’ in the Newman killing.

First Circuit Judges James Kuhn, John Pettigrew and Mike McDonald said the evidence Guillory sought to introduce “established very little connection” between Newman and Gillis and “did not tend to show that Gillis committed the murder in this case.”

“The modus operandi in this case and Gillis’s murders were not so similar as to establish any significant level of relevancy in the evidence the defendant sought to introduce,” Pettigrew wrote for the panel. “While Gillis used zip ties to murder his victims, the evidence showed that the victim in this case was strangled with her shirt.”

Pettigrew also noted that Newman “was not transported after the murder or mutilated as were Gillis’s victims.”

Newman’s body was found April 11, 2002, behind the old Maison Blanche/Goudchaux’s building.

Guillory, 46, was arrested in late 2009 and booked in the deaths of Newman, Edwards and Sylvia Cobb, 36, of Baton Rouge. Cobb was slain in 2001.

The Edwards, Cobb and Newman murders predated legislation that Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law in 2009 making serial killers more-easily subject to the death penalty in Louisiana.

Guillory also is serving a 50-year prison term in the second-degree robbery and attempted second-degree murder of a Lafayette woman, Johnnie Rose Martinez, in late 2007. He was found guilty in that case in 2010. Martinez testified at Guillory’s trial in the Newman slaying.

The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office has said Guillory will not be prosecuted further.

Gillis is serving life terms in the 2004 strangulation and mutilation of Donna Bennett Johnston, of Baton Rouge, and in the 1999 killing of Joyce Williams, also of Baton Rouge. She was killed in Port Allen.

Authorities have said Gillis confessed to killing eight south Louisiana women between 1994 and 2004.