Judge rules bullets can be used in Beauregard Town slaying case

Aramis Jackson
Aramis Jackson

One of two unfired bullets found in Aramis Jackson’s pants pocket in August 2010 — four weeks before he allegedly shot and killed a woman in Beauregard Town and wounded her young daughter — matches evidence collected at the murder scene, a prosecutor told a judge Friday.

Over the objections of Jackson’s defense attorney, state District Judge Tony Marabella ruled Friday that both bullets can be entered into evidence in Jackson’s first-degree murder trial in the fatal home invasion that left Alexandra Engler, 42, dead and her then-9-year-old daughter, Ariana, seriously wounded. Both were shot.

Marabella’s ruling should give prosecutors one more piece of evidence in an investigation that, according to court hearings and documents, has produced a bloody shoe print that matches shoes seized from Jackson, and witnesses who identified Jackson as the person they saw in the area shortly after the crime. They said he was carrying a gun and a large flat-screen television believed stolen from the Engler home.

The gun used in the shootings has never been found.

Jackson, 24, of Baton Rouge, is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder. A trial date has not been set.

Baton Rouge Police Capt. Stephen Browning testified Friday at a hearing in the capital murder case that he arrested Jackson on Aug. 27, 2010, in the 4200 block of Sycamore Street near Plank Road for disturbing the peace, and seized the two .45-caliber bullets from his right front pants pocket.

East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Darwin Miller told Marabella that Jackson pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor disturbing the peace charge in October 2010 in Baton Rouge City Court.

He was under arrest in the Beauregard Town case at the time of his plea.

The .45-caliber bullet seized from Jackson in August 2010 was not involved in the fatal September 2010 shooting, but Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory reports indicate the bullet, and several .45-caliber shell casings located at the murder scene, share the same markings.

One Crime Lab report by forensic scientist Patrick Lane says five shell casings found at the Beauregard Street crime scene — three in a bathroom, one on a kitchen counter and another in the backyard deck area — were fired “in the same unknown firearm.”

A second report by Lane says the two .45-caliber bullets found in Jackson’s pocket on Aug. 27, 2010, were compared to the five shell casings located at the murder scene on Sept. 24, 2010.

One of the unfired bullets taken from Jackson’s pocket “has a series of marks that is consistent with this cartridge being fed through the action of a firearm at least three times,” the second report states.

The case of that cartridge, or bullet, found in Jackson’s pocket and three of the five shell casings discovered at the murder scene “bear ‘feed marks’ consistent with being cycled through the action of the same unknown firearm,” the report adds. “At least two of the three feed marks are from this same unknown firearm.”

One of Jackson’s court-appointed attorneys, Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office lawyer Mario Guadamud, objected to the state’s request to use the evidence of the bullets found in Jackson’s pockets at his murder trial.

Guadamud argued Jackson’s disturbing the peace arrest was improper and that the seized bullets are not admissible at the trial.

Marabella disagreed and said a jury will be allowed to hear about the seized bullets.

Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office Director David Price, who also represents Jackson, said afterward he hadn’t decided whether to ask a state appeals court to review the judge’s ruling.