Judge: Ethel woman’s death ‘incomprehensible’

A state district judge said Tuesday he wishes he could do more to punish a convicted killer beyond sentencing him to life in prison without the benefit of probation, parole or sentence suspension.

“I would have to say that it’s almost incomprehensible that you could do something like this,” 20th Judicial District Judge George H. Ware Jr. told Kendale Scott, 27, who was convicted Aug. 2 of second-degree murder in the death of Katherine Hartman, 58, in Ethel.

Ware said Scott, the boyfriend of Hartman’s daughter Lisa Keller, killed Hartman because she was “old, ill and in the way” and “messing in (Scott’s) business.”

East Feliciana Parish sheriff’s deputies said after Scott shot and killed Hartman on June 24, 2012, Keller reported her mother missing the next day to avoid answering questions about her mother’s disappearance.

Deputies found Hartman’s body on July 6, 2012, wrapped in a sheet and plastic in the yard of a vacant house at the end of Lane Road in Ethel.

Keller, Scott and Wheat lived with Hartman in a mobile home at 8158 Highland Drive, west of Clinton.

After Scott’s trial, Ware accepted a guilty plea to manslaughter from Keller’s friend Naomi Ruth Wheat, 21, and sentenced her to 25 years in prison.

In addition to sentencing Scott, Ware also accepted guilty pleas Tuesday from Keller, 35, to obstruction of justice, and from Shedrick Law, 25, of Baker, to accessory after the fact to second-degree murder.

Ware sentenced both of them to suspended five-year prison terms and placed them on probation for five years on the condition they each pay $500 fines, pay $400 to both the Indigent Defender Board and the District Attorney’s Office and make restitution of funeral costs to an unnamed third party.

Although the judge told Keller she was not directly involved in the slaying, as were Scott and Wheat, she shares the blame for her mother’s death.

Keller, the only breadwinner in the home, and her three children shared the residence with “an abusive, dangerous and shiftless” person, Ware said.

“If you had come forward earlier, your mother might still be alive,” Ware told Keller, who sobbed while standing with her attorney before the judge.

“The only thing you can do to redeem yourself is raise your three children to be productive citizens,” Ware added.

Law, who was a friend of Scott, is the least culpable of the four people charged in the killing and probably would have come forward earlier except for his fear of Scott, Ware said.

The judge advised Law to “pay more attention” to the type of people he befriends.