Lawyers challenge investigation into LSU students deaths

The man who led the multi-agency investigation into the December 2007 shooting deaths of two LSU graduate students from India came under intense fire Wednesday from attorneys for two Baton Rouge men standing trial in the students’ slaying.

Lawyers representing alleged triggerman Casey Jermaine Gathers and Michael Jermaine Lewis accused former LSU Police Detective Jared Myers of spearheading a shoddy probe and misleading federal authorities about the cooperation provided by the half-brother of Devin Jamell Parker, who pleaded guilty in the case in June 2011 and implicated Gathers and Lewis.

The questioning of Myers came to a boiling point when Jason Chatagnier, one of Lewis’ attorneys, asked state District Judge Chip Moore to send the jury out of the courtroom, then suggested Myers consider consulting with a lawyer before answering additional questions.

In the end, Moore determined such action was unnecessary, summoned the jury back into the courtroom and Myers completed a grueling day of testimony.

At the heart of the dispute was George Parker, who contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office in April 2008 and said Devin Parker had visited him in the West Baton Rouge Parish Prison earlier that year.

During the visit, Devin Parker allegedly admitted he, Gathers and Lewis were responsible for the deaths of Kiran Kumar Allam and Chandrasekhar Reddy Komma at the Edward Gay Apartments on the north side of campus.

Myers testified he assisted in having George Parker, who was in custody on federal weapons charges, released from the Port Allen prison in May 2008 so he could attempt to secretly record Devin Parker and obtain more information about the double murder.

Three attempts by George Parker to record Devin Parker failed in mid-May 2008, Myers said, and to add insult to injury, the Parkers were arrested later that month on simple robbery charges.

“I was upset,” Myers replied when Andre Belanger, one of Gathers’ attorneys, asked the former detective how he felt about an informant being arrested.

Myers acknowledged making no mention of that arrest when he wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge detailing George Parker’s cooperation in the murder investigation.

“Through the efforts of you, you made that possible,” Chatagnier said to Myers concerning the simple robbery allegedly committed by the Parkers.

Chatagnier asked Myers if he intentionally withheld George Parker’s arrest from the letter he sent to a federal prosecutor.

“I wasn’t trying to hide it from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Absolutely not,” he insisted.

With the jury out of the courtroom, Chatagnier again asked Myers why information about George Parker’s arrest was not included in the letter.

“I provided one about his cooperation,” Myers answered.

Chatagnier then said Myers should be given a chance to consult with a lawyer and said, “If Mr. Myers incriminates himself, that is not fair to Mr. Myers.”

Assistant District Attorney Steve Danielson told the judge it is preposterous to think federal officials did not know George Parker had a pending simple robbery charge when he was sentenced in federal court in fall 2008 on his weapons charges.

“We’re going down rat holes and wasting the jury’s time,” he argued.

Earlier Wednesday, Myers testified that Marlon “One Black” Washington and Brandon Harris — two Baton Rouge men with extensive criminal records — were considered persons of interest in the early stages of the double-murder investigation before George Parker brought the names of Devin Parker, Gathers and Lewis to the attention of authorities.

Allam, 33, of Hyderabad, India, and Komma, 31, of Kurnool, India, were killed Dec. 13, 2007, inside Allam’s apartment. Both were shot once in the head, and Komma’s hands were bound with a computer cord.

Washington is charged with second-degree murder in the Dec. 20, 2003, shooting death of Vietnamese grocer Xuan Van Duong and was convicted of manslaughter in the Dec. 23, 2007, killing of Harold Flowers III.

“That’s (the murder of Flowers) about 10 days after this incident,” Belanger said to Myers.

Myers said the task force investigating the LSU double murder received a call in February 2008 from a police informant who said the word on the street was that Washington and Harris allegedly were bragging about the students’ killing.

“We were never able to build enough information around them,” he said of Washington and Harris.

Myers said the task force also received a tip in June 2008 that Michael Bray had the .38-caliber revolver allegedly used to kill Allam and Komma.

Bray was found to be in possession of such a gun but told investigators he bought it on the street for $15, Myers added.

“The (Louisiana) State Police Crime Lab cannot say that gun was the murder weapon,” he stated.

Also Wednesday, one of the 12 jurors was removed from the panel and replaced by one of the two alternate jurors because she said she knows Gathers’ sister and could not guarantee she could be fair and impartial.

Gathers, 25, and Lewis, 24, were indicted in July 2011 on two counts each of second-degree murder and face mandatory sentences of life in prison if found guilty as charged.

Devin Parker, 24, of Baton Rouge, is awaiting sentencing Oct. 21 on charges of armed robbery and accessory to second-degree murder.

The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday.