Teen pleads guilty to second-degree murder in stabbing death of boy

Advocate staff photo by JAMES MINTON -- West Feliciana Parish sheriff's Lt. Brian Spillman, right, leads inmate Trevor Reese back to his jail cell after Reese pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in the June 2010 slaying of 8-year-old Jackson 'Jack' Attuso, of Clinton, on a recreation trail near Reese's home in the The Bluffs on Thompson Creek. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by JAMES MINTON -- West Feliciana Parish sheriff's Lt. Brian Spillman, right, leads inmate Trevor Reese back to his jail cell after Reese pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in the June 2010 slaying of 8-year-old Jackson 'Jack' Attuso, of Clinton, on a recreation trail near Reese's home in the The Bluffs on Thompson Creek.

The teenager accused of fatally slashing the throat of an 8-year-old boy nearly three years ago still could be sentenced to life imprisonment without benefit of parole despite his age at the time he committed the crime and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, a state judge told the youth Thursday.

Trevor Reese, 19, dropped his insanity defense and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the June 10, 2010, slaying of Jackson “Jack” Attuso, of Clinton.

Reese was scheduled to go on trial Monday for first-degree murder.

In Reese’s situation, the penalties under Louisiana law are identical for both second-degree murder and first-degree murder convictions.

Twentieth Judicial District Judge William G. Carmichael said he will set a sentencing hearing after the state Legislature amends Louisiana’s first- and second-degree murder statutes to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in an Alabama case.

Because Reese was 16 when he attacked the youngster on a recreation trail in The Bluffs on Thompson Creek development, District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla was barred by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from seeking the death penalty against Reese.

When the death penalty is not given in a first-degree murder case, Louisiana law requires the defendant to receive an automatic life sentence without the benefit of parole. Second-degree murder convictions also carry automatic penalties of life without parole.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year, however, that mandating a life sentence without any consideration for the possibility of parole is unconstitutional when the murder is committed by a juvenile.

During Reese’s sentencing hearing, Carmichael will consider whether Reese should be given a chance for parole at a future date, in accordance with the high court’s ruling.

In questioning Reese about his change in plea, Carmichael twice asked Reese if he understood that the hearing could still result in a life sentence at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.

Reese, wearing a black-and-white striped jail uniform and a ballistics vest, twice replied, “Yes, sir.”

Carmichael also posed the question to Reese’s attorneys, Lewis and Lance Unglesby, who also replied in the affirmative.

The judge said the state and defense may call witnesses during the hearing to present what the attorneys believe is evidence the court should consider in deciding on a sentence.

D’Aquilla told Carmichael the mother of the slain boy may want to give a “victim’s impact statement” during the hearing.

The victim and his twin brother were born in Russia and adopted by a Clinton couple.

The boy’s aunt attended the hearing, as did Reese’s parents.

D’Aquilla also asked the judge to continue a “consent order” barring attorneys from talking to reporters about the case.

Investigators said in search warrants that the victim was riding his bicycle on the trail with his mother, brother and some friends when the boy was attacked.

A witness who rode ahead of the group saw Reese standing on the side of the trail, wearing a backpack and holding something in his hand.

After the witness passed Reese, she heard screams and returned to find the boy’s mother, a physician, performing CPR on her bloodied son.

Construction workers building a house in the The Bluffs told sheriff’s deputies Reese walked out of the woods and asked them to call 911.

Reese had blood on his clothing and told the workers he had stabbed someone, Sheriff J. Austin Daniel said shortly after the slaying.

When asked why he had stabbed someone, the workers said Reese replied, “Because he was the first one there.”