Teen who killed sister with wrestling moves sentenced to three years in juvenile facility

A West Bank teenager who admitted to beating his 5-year-old half-sister to death this summer with professional wrestling moves was sentenced Tuesday to three years in a secure juvenile facility.

Armstrong Desvallons’ defense attorney had argued the 13-year-old should be offered rehabilitation services in the community. Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court Judge Andrea Janzen said the youth, who spent a half-dozen hearings in her courtroom sitting sullen and silent, had given her no evidence to explain how or why the child described as jovial and outgoing by fellow church members could be so disrespectful and angry at home.

“I just don’t have any information to support that kind of behavior, and that is very troubling to me,” she said, adding, “It’s as if I’m dealing with two different children.”

Janzen told Armstrong, who was facing up to five years in custody, that the only peek into his psyche came when he glowered at his stepfather and clenched his fists in last week’s hearing when her attention was turned elsewhere.

The stepfather, Vilger Louis — who was also the father of the 5-year-old victim, Viloude Louis — had just testified that the boy, whose green card he signed in 2010 to bring him from Haiti to the United States, would refuse to let him in the door and would say, “Hey, woman!” to his mother. Louis said he feared for his safety and the safety of his 11-year-old daughter, Christelle.

“I don’t think you are going to give Armstrong license to go out there and kill somebody again,” he told the judge.

Janzen told Armstrong that the injuries to Viloude were so severe that “you had to know that you were hurting your sister.”

“This was a 35-pound baby who had to have suffered at your hands,” she said. “You were old enough to know better.”

The child was found dead by her father in their Terrytown apartment on June 16 after Armstrong called his mother to say she had been sick and wasn’t responsive. The boy confessed to investigators the next day, but Janzen had the confession thrown out because she found investigators didn’t do enough to inform the mother of her rights.

That led to a deal with prosecutors in which Armstrong pleaded guilty to negligent homicide. Most of the two hearings that followed dealt with whether he should be sent to a secure facility, as recommended by the probation office and favored by prosecutors, or released into the community for rehabilitation as long he stayed away from younger children.

Several members of the Marrero Seventh-day Adventist Church told the judge they would be willing take Armstrong into their homes and help him get to school and receive counseling. Vilger Louis said he will not allow the boy who killed his daughter into the Louis home.

Sandra Ann Harris, 64, who spent three years raising her grandchildren while their father was in Afghanistan, said she would take Armstrong into her home and get the time off work necessary to care for him. James Anderson III, a nurse educator for a dialysis clinic, and church bus driver Lesby Jackson said they would help as well.

Janzen praised the church members but said she couldn’t put the boy back in a home setting right away.

“It pains me to put a 13-year-old into a secure facility,” she said, noting she could not remember ever sentencing a child that young to secure care.

The boy will get credit for the time he has served since July, and Janzen recommended he be sent to the nearby Bridge City Center for Youth so he can get support from his family and members of his church. She ordered parish agencies to put together a treatment plan for him, including anger, grief and victim-awareness therapy.

Janzen told Armstrong that if he stays out of trouble and responds to his therapy, she can reduce his time in the secure facility and release him to community treatment.

She told the boy’s family he will need their attention as he serves his time, and told the church volunteers, “This child will continue to need support from all of you wonderful people.”

While probation officers testified Armstrong has shown no remorse or grief, Janzen said she believes the boy, who was left by his mother in Haiti in 2006 only to be taken from his father and reunited with his mother here in 2010, does feel remorse.

“This child has had tremendous separation issues, and I have no doubt that has caused him grief and trauma,” she said.

After the two-hour hearing, the boy walked out in shackles the way he had done half a dozen times before, quietly and without expression.

“Good luck, Armstrong,” Janzen told him.

Outside the courthouse, Allourdes Desvallons said she agrees with the judge’s ruling, even though she initially had expressed a desire that her son be placed in the community.

She said she thinks of her daughter constantly, but will do everything she can for her son, whom she said she forgives.

“A mother,” she explained, “must live for her kids.”