DA: Jurors won't need autopsy to tell them Talaija was murdered

District Attorney Ricky Babin said Friday it will still be possible for a jury to decide St. James Parish girl’s death was a homicide, despite inconclusive preliminary findings in an autopsy report as to the cause of her death.

“I believe a jury can determine there’s a homicide based on a lot of facts, not just an autopsy report,” said Babin, who is the top prosecutor for the 23rd Judicial District, which includes Ascension, St. James and Assumption parishes.

Babin also said that nobody should assume that more information won’t be forthcoming when the official autopsy report is released. The results of additional tests that are part of the autopsy are still not yet known, he said.

Babin’s comments followed remarks by St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin earlier Friday in which Martin said he didn’t know if there will ever be an exact cause of death determined for 12-year-old Talaija Dorsey.

“We certainly want to know, but if we never determine it that’s just the way it’s going to be,” Martin said on Friday, adding even without a cause of death he expects to put together a strong case on the evidence available. “We can move on with this investigation without that information.”

Talaija’s mother’s fiancé, 42-year-old John Celestine, has been charged with her murder.

“Exact cause of death, we don’t know if that is every going to be determined unless he gives it up himself,” Martin said.

The sheriff said he hasn’t seen an official report on the preliminary autopsy, but from his conversations with the parish’s coroner, he understands more testing will be done.

“The bottom line is we ruled out some things like the use of a certain kind of weapon,” he said, explaining the initial findings did determine she had not been shot or stabbed.

She was found near a cane field near a wooded area on La. 3127 in Vacherie after a five-day search, just miles from her family’s home, where she was reported missing on July 1.