CLINTON — A Roseland man accused of second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend drove around several parishes and a Mississippi county with her body in a car before finally stopping the vehicle in East Feliciana Parish, a prosecutor told a jury Tuesday.
Antwoene Irving, 34, faces a mandatory life sentence if a jury of nine women and three men finds him guilty as charged in the April 2011 death of Kiewana Sopsher, 33, also of Roseland.
Although Sopsher apparently died in Tangipahoa Parish, 20th Judicial District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla elected to try Irving in East Feliciana Parish.
The trial will continue before 20th Judicial District Judge George H. Ware Jr. on Wednesday.
Prosecutor Lea Hall said in opening arguments that Irving abused Sopsher during their relationship and he attacked her one night as she stopped at her home to allow her 11-year-old son to get a belt he needed to wear to school the next morning.
Lying in wait in an outbuilding, Irving angrily confronted Sopsher, Hall told the jury.
Hall said Irving choked and beat the woman and threw her son to the ground when he came to his mother’s defense. Irving then drove away with Sopsher in the car, said Hall, a former Caddo Parish assistant district attorney.
Hall said blood and other evidence shows Sopsher died on Washington Avenue in Roseland when she came out of the car and her head hit the pavement.
Prosecutors contend Irving is guilty of second-degree murder because Sopsher died while he was engaged in a second-degree kidnapping.
“You don’t have to know whether she was pushed or jumped,” Hall said, adding that her skull was fractured and she was soon dead.
Irving then drove around for three hours with the dead woman in the back seat of the car, with Tangipahoa sheriff’s deputies and other officers, Sopsher’s family and Irving’s family attempting to find him.
A deputy “pinged” Sopsher’s cellphone and determined he had been near cellphone towers in Kentwood and McComb, Miss., Hall said.
Irving eventually stopped the car on the side of Plank Road south of Clinton and began walking toward Zachary, where a relative arranged for him to surrender to Zachary police early the next morning.
Defense attorney Samuel “Chuck” Ward told the jury the couple’s relationship had “its ups and downs, but don’t let that color your judgment.”
Rather than forcing his way into the car, Ward said, Irving got into the car at Sopsher’s invitation to “talk it out” after Irving accused her of cheating on him because he found a condom wrapper by their bed when he returned from a stay in the hospital.
“Evidence will point to the fact that she jumped out of the car,” Ward said, adding that Irving tried to keep her from falling out of the vehicle.
Ward said Irving was panic-stricken when he found Sopsher was not breathing and he put her in the back seat — “not the trunk” — and eventually surrendered, “not ever dreaming he’d be here today charged with second-degree murder.”