Witness details robbery, killing of LSU graduate students in 2007

A convicted felon calmly told a jury Thursday he was intoxicated when he and two other men forced two LSU graduate students from India into a small campus apartment in December 2007, and one of the students cried out for help as he tried in vain to flee before being shot to death.

Devin Jamell Parker, who pleaded guilty in 2011 to armed robbery and accessory after the fact to second-degree murder in the double-murder case, also testified he would like to receive a 10-year prison term — with credit for the more than five years he has spent behind bars since his 2008 arrest — when he is sentenced Oct. 21.

“What would you do to get out of jail, Mr. Parker?” asked former prosecutor Beau Brock, one of Casey Jermaine Gathers’ attorneys. “Would you lie?”

“Ten years sounds great, doesn’t it?” said Jason Chatagnier, who represents Michael Jermaine Lewis, to Parker, 24, as he testified in shackles and an orange prison jumpsuit.

“Yes sir,” Parker replied.

Gathers, 25, and Lewis, 24, both of Baton Rouge, are standing trial on two counts apiece of second-degree murder in the Dec. 13, 2007, killing of Kiran Kumar Allam and Chandrasekhar Reddy Komma inside Allam’s unit at the Edward Gay Apartments.

Gathers and Lewis face automatic sentences of life in prison if convicted as charged.

Allam and Komma were shot once in the head, and Komma was tied up with computer cord.

Allam’s then-pregnant wife discovered the bodies after returning home from a holiday party.

Parker’s attorney, Jim Holt, and East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III were in the courtroom for Parker’s anticipated testimony.

Parker, also of Baton Rouge, explained how he, Gathers and Lewis were driving around town in Gathers’ car the night of the slayings when they pulled into the Edward Gay parking lot.

Parker said they got out of the car and began walking toward two Indian men who were smoking outside a ground-floor apartment.

“We passed them up. We turned around. That’s when we confronted them — me, Michael and Casey,” he said, adding Gathers and Lewis were armed with handguns.

Once Gathers and Lewis — who were wearing gloves — followed Allam and Komma into the apartment, Parker said he too went inside and used his elbow to close the door to avoid touching anything, but the door did not shut completely.

Parker said he picked up a cellphone from a table, and that is when Allam tried to escape.

“One of the Indians tried to run. He made it to the door but he didn’t make it outside. He was like, `Help!’ ” Parker said, noting Gathers used his foot to slam the door shut.

Parker, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to simple burglary and was still on probation at the time of the LSU incident, said he took a wallet from Allam’s back pocket and was standing next to Allam when Gathers shot him in the head.

Shocked and scared, Parker said he ran to Gathers’ car but could not enter because it was locked.

“I heard another shot,” he said, which was followed by Lewis, then Gathers exiting the apartment.

As they drove out of the complex’s parking lot, Parker said, they passed an LSU Police car entering the complex. He said a black man was driving the marked police car.

A former LSU Police officer, Ezie Smith, testified earlier in the week that he passed a suspicious looking car with three black men inside the night of the killings.

Parker said he took $40 from the wallet he stole, then tossed the wallet and the cellphone in a roadside drain.

A month or two after the killings, Parker said he visited his incarcerated brother, George Parker, at the West Baton Rouge Parish Prison and told him he, Gathers and Lewis were responsible for the murders.

“I just asked him if he had seen the stuff on TV about the students. I told him we had done that,” he said. “It was on my conscience. I had to tell somebody.”

George Parker told authorities about that conversation, and Devin Parker, Gathers and Lewis were arrested in the spring 2008.

Devin Parker was indicted on second-degree murder charges in September 2008, and after he pleaded guilty and testified before a grand jury, Gathers and Lewis were indicted in July 2011.

Devin Parker will resume his testimony Friday.

After prosecutor Steve Danielson questioned him for a hour Thursday, Brock and Chatagnier bombarded Parker with questions about the numerous inconsistencies and changes in his taped police statements: two in 2008 and one in 2011.

“Your story has changed over and over and over and over again,” Brock said as he walked slowly in front of the jury box.

After initially denying involvement in the killings, Devin Parker told police he, Gathers and Lewis were in Lewis’ orange car that night, then said they were in Gathers’ blue car. His statements also changed concerning who was armed and which gun Gathers and Lewis had the night in question.

Devin Parker also acknowledged filing a motion earlier this year seeking to withdraw his guilty plea. He later withdrew the request.

“I was frustrated,” he said, stating that Holt promised him he would receive a 10-year term, even though his plea agreement makes no mention of a recommended sentence. Armed robbery carries a sentence of 10 to 99 years.

Brock pleaded with Parker to tell the truth.

“As a former prosecutor I’m telling you people will stand up for you if you tell the truth,” he said. “Please tell this jury the truth. You did not go to this apartment.”

Parker stood by his testimony and said the only reason his statements have changed is because he was intoxicated the night of the LSU incident and cannot remember all of the specifics of what happened and what furniture was inside the apartment.

Allam, 33, was a chemistry student from Hyderabad, India. Komma, 31, was a biology student from Kurnool, India.