Ascension slaying case may rest on circumstantial evidence

State district prosecutor Amy Colby told jurors Thursday that they will hear a lot of circumstantial evidence against three men accused in the slaying of Baton Rouge resident Gerald “Butta” Wilkins along an isolated wooded road near Sorrento in January 2013.

Colby, an assistant district attorney in the 23rd Judicial District, said jurors should use their common sense to evaluate the coming testimony and reminded them it is only on television where viewers see dramatic revelations of a crime.

“That’s not real life, ladies and gentlemen. I wish it was. This would be whole lot easier,” Colby said in her opening arguments at the Ascension Parish Courthouse Annex.

Darryl “Hoops” Jones, 42; Calvin “Dirt” K. Williams, 39; and Cecil Ray “Unc” Beals, 55, are being tried together on second-degree murder charges. Wilkins was shot three times in the head early on the morning of Jan. 12, 2013.

Colby offered few details about the prosecution’s theory of the case in her arguments to start the first day of what is expected to be a five- to six-day trial being presided over by Judge Ralph Tureau.

Sheriff’s deputies said more than a year ago that Jones, Williams and Beals left Baton Rouge with Wilkins in a car and that Williams and Beals shot Wilkins off LV Road near Sorrento.

Defense attorneys for each of the men emphasized the lack of hard evidence against their clients.

Jones’ attorney, Jarrett Ambeau, said his client was at home in Baton Rouge asleep in his bed by 2 a.m. Jan. 12, 2013, a few hours before the slaying.

Williams’ attorney, Rusty Messer, said his client was with the mother of his child in Baton Rouge the night of the slaying.

Messer noted someone had tried to fatally shoot Wilkins, 41, 1123 N. Sabine Drive, Baton Rouge, three other times and claimed others were interested in harming him.

Beals’ attorney, Shannon Batiste, told jurors about a jailhouse snitch expected to testify that Beals told him about the slaying and Jones’ and Williams’ alleged involvement.

But Batiste alleged the snitch harbored ill will for Jones and Beals over their dealings with the snitch’s wife and questioned why Beals — the great-uncle of Williams and a longtime friend to Jones who lived with him in Baton Rouge’s Mayfair area — would make such an admission to his “arch-enemy.”

“That makes absolutely no sense,” Batiste said.

Detective Lt. Gerald Whealton, a crime scene investigator for the Sheriff’s Office, told Assistant District Attorney Steven Sheets that Wilkins had likely gotten out of a vehicle to urinate on LV Road when he was shot from a few feet away.

A crack pipe and other drug paraphernalia were in one of his hands, Whealton added.

Dr. Christopher Tape, the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy, said toxicology tests found Wilkins had been drinking alcohol and using marijuana and cocaine before his death.