The 13-year-old boy accused of killing his younger sister while imitating wrestling moves in the bedroom of their Terrytown apartment told detectives in June that he didn’t think she was being serious when she said he was hurting her.
Armstrong Desvallons hung his head in a Jefferson Parish juvenile courtroom Wednesday morning as his recorded voice recounted how he slammed 5-year-old Viloude Louis on the bed and floor and hit her midsection with the back of his elbow for more than half an hour on a Sunday afternoon in June.
In that statement to Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office investigators, he said that sometimes his sister only pretended to be hurt when they wrestled, and that the half a dozen body slams and up to 10 elbow hits were “what I knew that she could take.”
In the small courtroom on Wednesday, his mother, Allourdes Desvallons, sat next to him and sobbed as the recording revealed that Armstrong stopped only when his mother called to check on them and ask Viloude to brush her teeth.
“I just wanted to keep going, to have fun,” he explained on the recording. “I didn’t think that this would happen.”
The recording is one of two that attorneys sparred over Wednesday: The first was an interrogation of the boy with the mother present; the second, more revealing one, was with investigators and the boy alone.
Defense attorneys argued they should be thrown out, saying the Desvallonses didn’t know they had waived their right to an attorney and could stop anytime; the prosecution countered that detectives clearly followed procedure and the mother and son knew their rights.
Juvenile Judge Andrea Price Janzen didn’t rule after about three hours of testimony, but will do so when the trial gets underway next week.
If convicted, Armstrong Desvallons could be sentenced to a juvenile detention facility until he is 21.
Detective Matthew Vasquez, who was with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office at the time but now works in St. Tammany Parish, testified that he went over the juvenile rights form with the Desvallonses line by line before the first interview.
Vasquez said he left Allourdes Desvallons and her husband alone while they talked about funeral arrangements for their daughter, getting their permission to speak with Armstrong Desvallons again.
There, Vasquez and a captain got further details from the boy.
While a prosecution witness from Armstrong Desvallons’ school testified he got a B+ in language arts and an A- in social studies in the seventh grade, defense attorney Sarah Gilmore pointed out his test scores last year pegged his reading comprehension at a third-grade level.
His mother said Armstrong Desvallons was born in Haiti and didn’t move here until 2010.
Gilmore pointed out that during the recording, the boy called mattress springs “bouncy things” and said a dresser was simply “where I put my clothes.”
Attorneys debated how well the teenager’s mother, whose first language is Creole French, speaks English.
The prosecution noted she never asked for a translator during the initial questioning, though she had one at the hearing.
Vasquez said he never considered her language skills an issue, only that her accent might be difficult for transcribers.
But Gilmore said the state has an obligation to be extra cautious when informing juveniles of their rights.
Under questioning by the defense, Allourdes Desvallons testified she considered the form a formality she needed to get through to find out more about what happened to her daughter, though Vasquez testified he discussed the autopsy results explicitly before the questioning.
In the recording, Armstrong Desvallons said he knows the professional wrestling he watches on TV isn’t real.
“I wanted it to be fake,” he said, “but it wasn’t.”