A convicted and imprisoned felon testified Tuesday he was with two Baton Rouge men on Jan. 7, 2009, when one of them put a $3,000 bounty on a Denham Springs man’s head to prevent the victim from testifying against him at a drug trial in Baton Rouge.
“Where’s the money at?” Joseph Nixon, 45, recalled Charles Young asking Cedrick Kelly at a Baton Rouge drug house that night.
Later that night, Dustin Duncan, 23, and his wife, Beth Duncan, 20, were shot to death inside their van in the 3400 block of Canonicus Street in what an East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor called an execution.
Young, 25, of Baton Rouge, is standing trial on two counts of second-degree murder in the alleged murder-for-hire of the Denham Springs couple. Prosecutors contend Young was the triggerman. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged.
Kelly, 32, also of Baton Rouge, faced the same charges, but they were dismissed in August 2011. Prosecutor Tracey Barbera said the charges could be refiled.
Kelly was scheduled to stand trial in March 2009 for allegedly selling Dustin Duncan a rock of crack cocaine on Aug. 11, 2008, in the 3500 block of Alliquippa Street. Duncan, who was not charged, had agreed to testify against Kelly.
But when Duncan and his wife were killed after returning to the same area in January 2009, the charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine against Kelly was finally dismissed in January 2012.
Barbera told jurors Tuesday that Kelly knew Dustin Duncan was cooperating with prosecutors.
“Folks, this is a murder-for-hire. These two young people were each shot twice in the head,” she said in her opening statement, adding that three 9 mm shell casings fired from the same gun were found inside the couple’s van.
“The shooter was inside that van, just as the shooter is inside this courtroom,” Barbera said. “He killed two people for money.”
Young’s attorney, Gail Ray, told the jury the case against her client resembles an episode of the old TV show “Let’s Make a Deal” — with Nixon willing to say anything to try to persuade prosecutors not to seek a life sentence against him as a habitual offender.
“Something was going to happen to you if you didn’t come up with a plan,” Ray said to Nixon, who wrote a series of letters to Barbera and her boss, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III, between February 2011 and March 2012 offering his assistance.
“I’m not going to lie on nobody,” Nixon insisted.
“It seems to me you’re willing to say anything to save Joseph Nixon,” Ray fired back.
“I’m hoping I can come out better than I am now,” Nixon acknowledged.
Nixon testified he did not see or hear the fatal shooting, but did hear Kelly offer a $3,000 hit on Dustin Duncan and did hear Young ask about the money.
Barbera suggested that Nixon put himself at great risk by coming into court and testifying for the prosecution at Young’s trial.
“You’ve sort of broken a code today. You’re telling on someone. So did Dustin Duncan,” the prosecutor said.
Ray immediately objected to Barbera’s last remark, and state District Judge Richard Anderson sustained the defense attorney’s objection.
The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday.