McGhee found guilty in slaying of Hammond couple, faces life sentence

Updated at 7:45 p.m. An emotional trial for the families of Tamica Muse and Karum Smith came to a solemn end Thursday when a jury in Tangipahoa Parish convicted Giles McGhee of shooting and killing Muse and Smith in April 2012.

Several times during the nearly weeklong trial that began Monday, family and friends of Muse and Smith became so overwhelmed after seeing pictures presented in court of Muse’s dead body that they had to leave the courtroom.

Nobody sobbed Thursday.

Family and friends sat quietly in the packed courtroom as 21st Judicial District Judge Bruce Bennett read the jury’s guilty verdict.

Family and friends hugged each other outside the Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse.

“I’m happy. I’m satisfied,” Muse’s mother, Shirley Levy, said before walking away.

“It was hard,” said Patrick Matthews, the father of Muse’s daughter, Tremeisha Matthews. “We all had to relive that morning all over again.”

McGhee, 53, of Independence, was convicted of two charges of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Muse, 36, and Smith, 39, as the couple lay in bed in their apartment at 107 Mallard Drive.

McGhee had an on-and-off relationship with Muse for years. He had lived at the Mallard Drive apartment but moved out, shortly before the shootings, when their relationship ended.

The jury voted 11-1 on each charge Thursday. A first-degree murder conviction in Louisiana requires a minimum of 10 votes.

The District Attorney’s Office did not seek the death penalty in this case, so McGhee faces life in prison. Sentencing will be held March 12.

“I’m pleased for the family,” said Assistant District Attorney Jeff Johnson, the prosecutor in the case. “It’s been a long two years for them.”

Willis Ray, McGhee’s attorney, expressed disappointment in the verdict. He said he will file post-trial motions but no decisions have been made on appealing the jury’s decision.

Investigators found no physical evidence — DNA, fingerprints, a weapon — directly linking McGhee to the crime scene. Ray tried to persuade the jury to acquit McGhee, arguing there was not enough physical evidence to prove his client’s guilt.

Prosecutors relied heavily on testimony from Muse’s daughter, Tremeisha Matthews, and McGhee’s stepdaughter, Nicole Flippen.

Tremeisha Matthews, 16, testified Tuesday, calmly describing how she was in her room, next to Muse and Smith’s room, when she heard someone who sounded like McGhee yell profanities before gunshots went off. She left her room, saw the bodies of her mother and Smith and then called 911.

Flippen, 32, said during an emotional testimony Wednesday that McGhee arrived at her home on Silverleaf Avenue in Baton Rouge hours after the shootings and admitted to the deed.

She testified that McGhee told her to lie about his whereabouts. McGhee told Hammond police he had spent the night before and morning of the slayings at Flippen’s home, according to a video of his official statement to police.

Flippen said she initially lied to police about McGhee staying at her home, but said she changed her statement after police pressed her further about his whereabouts.

McGhee, who told investigators he worked as an offshore caterer, did not testify during the trial.

McGhee told Hammond police he was not in Hammond at the time of the slayings, but Hammond Police Detective Ed Bergeron told McGhee that GPS tracking of his phone indicated he was in the area at the time.

Bergeron testified Wednesday that the GPS tracking of McGhee’s cellphone showed McGhee was driving down Interstate 12 to Flippen’s home in Baton Rouge about two hours after the slayings.

Authorities also located at the home the maroon minivan McGhee was purportedly driving.