Three sentenced to life in prison in 2013 slaying in Sorrento

Three men convicted of second-degree murder in the January 2013 slaying of Baton Rouge man Gerald “Butta” Wilkins in Sorrento have received mandatory life sentences, attorneys said Tuesday.

A 12-person jury convicted Darryl “Hoops” Jones, Cecil Ray “Unc” Beals and Calvin K. “Dirt” Williams on May 20 of Wilkins’ murder off a lightly populated, wooded section of LV Road early in the morning of Jan. 12, 2013.

Prosecutors claimed Wilkins, who apparently did not suspect he was about to be murdered, was shot three times in the back of the head while he urinated along the side of the road.

Judge Ralph Tureau, of the 23rd Judicial District Court, handed down the sentences for Jones, Beals and Williams late Monday evening at the Ascension Parish Courthouse Annex in Gonzales, attorneys said Tuesday.

Relying on circumstantial evidence that included cellphone records and testimony from a jailhouse snitch and a man who acknowledged he had been on crack cocaine for hours, prosecutors accused Jones, 42, 9429 Avis Ave., Baton Rouge, of orchestrating the murder of Wilkins, 41, 1123 N. Sabine Drive, Baton Rouge, a boyhood friend.

Prosecutors also claimed Williams, 39, and Beals, 55, participated in the murder between 3:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. while Jones monitored the slaying with his cellphone from Baton Rouge.

“This is one of those cases where nobody wins in these things. Families are hurt on both sides,” Assistant District Attorney Amy Colby, who prosecuted the case with ADA Stephen Sheets, said Tuesday.

“From what I understand, they grew up together. It’s because of the choices of the children, (that) their parents and their spouses or their loved ones are left pay for it.”

At trial, defense attorneys attacked the cellphone evidence as speculative and the credibility of some of the prosecution witnesses.

There were no victim impact statements before the sentencing Monday but Jones’ attorney, Jarrett Ambeau, said his client gave a statement, telling Wilkins’ mother that he was sorry he was not able to stop the slaying and catch who did it. Ambeau said his client maintains his innocence and did not know who killed Wilkins.

Ambeau maintained at trial that prosecutors lacked evidence to show his client had the specific intent to kill Wilkins and that, under the law, his client can’t be held accountable for the specific intent of codefendants.

He said Tuesday that he is planning an appeal over the jury instructions as they related to Jones.

He said Tureau refused to add language that, Ambeau said, would have clarified what jurors needed to convict Jones as a principal to second-degree murder.