Woman tells jury she feels to blame for boyfriend’s slaying

Ralph Henley
Ralph Henley

The girlfriend of a man whose dismembered body was found partly near Lacombe and partly in Mississippi testified Wednesday that she felt guilty about his death.

Crimson Pershing said her affair with Ralph Henley, who is on trial for the murder of Pershing’s live-in boyfriend, Brett Boudan, may have been part of the reason Boudan died.

Pershing is not accused of any wrongdoing in Boudan’s death.

“It was my fault; I had an affair,” Pershing said on the witness stand. “It was just my fault for sleeping around.”

Pershing, at times fighting back tears, said she ended the affair with Henley “maybe two months” before Boudan was killed on Jan. 14, 2011. She also said Boudan knew of the affair from its beginning in early to mid-2010.

Henley’s attorneys are not disputing that Henley killed Boudan but contend that it was self-defense. They allege Boudan, armed with a gun, angrily confronted Henley about the affair at a Pearl River boat launch.

The two men argued and were struggling when the gun went off, striking Boudan just above his left ear, attorney David Craig said.

After Boudan was shot, Henley told police in a videotaped statement that he panicked, at first burying the body in a Lacombe gravel pit and then moving most of it to field and wooded area in Mississippi because he feared it would be discovered, The Times-Picayune reported.

Pershing testified that she became worried when Boudan didn’t return from work on Jan. 14, 2011.

She went to the boat launch where Boudan’s truck was parked, and when she couldn’t find him, she contacted police.

Defense attorney Amanda Trosclair challenged Pershing’s account of when Boudan learned of the affair.

Trosclair pointed to phone records that showed Pershing and Henley still spoke several times on days after Pershing said the affair ended, including twice on Christmas Eve and twice again on Christmas Day 2010.

She also asked Pershing why she called Boudan multiple times during his work hours on the day he died, despite knowing that he was not supposed to be talking on the phone at work.

“Were you telling him about the affair?” Trosclair asked.

“No,” Pershing answered.

Trosclair also questioned Pershing’s account of when the affair ended, contrasting her testimony with a tape-recorded statement she gave to Pearl River Police in the days after the killing, when she said she had ended it “four months ago.”

Pershing said she couldn’t remember the dates well.

Pershing also admitted that she didn’t like the fact that Boudan and Henley had become friends and would get together, so much so that the two of them stopped telling her when they met.

Through Pershing’s testimony, Henley sat stoically at the defense table.

After Pershing left the stand, the prosecution called Michael DeFatta, St. Tammany Parish’s chief deputy coroner.

DeFatta testified that he had ruled the death a homicide and attributed the cause of death to a gunshot wound to the left side of Boudan’s head. No drugs or alcohol were found in Boudan’s system, DeFatta said.

Some body parts were found in Lacombe, DeFatta said. They consisted of most of the skull and small pieces of tissue, bone and the face, which had been torn away from the skull, possibly by the blade of a piece of heavy equipment, DeFatta said.

Henley was a heavy equipment operator.

In a field near Poplarville, Miss., investigators found Boudan’s torso, legs and his right arm, DeFatta said.

Jurors were shown a photo of the torso as it was discovered in the field and another of the face as it was uncovered.

Using a third picture of Boudan’s reconstructed skull, DeFatta showed jurors a round hole just above where Boudan’s ear would have been.

“There were very tiny metallic fragments found in the temple region,” he said.

The hole and the fragments were consistent with a gunshot wound, DeFatta said.

Defense attorneys said that Henley, in his panicked state, threw the gun into the Pearl River, The Times-Picayune reported. The gun has not been found.

The body’s state meant DeFatta couldn’t test the theory that the two men struggled, but he said it’s possible.

“The dismemberment made it impossible to look for injuries on other parts of the body,” he said. “There are other parts of the body I was not able to examine.”

Assistant District Attorney Harold Bartholomew rested the state’s case after DeFatta left the stand.

The defense recalled Pearl River detective Marco Lopez, who testified Tuesday for the state.

Trosclair questioned Lopez about the number of calls from Pershing to Boudan on the day he died and about when she told Boudan about her affair with Henley.

Lopez said the number of calls was “inordinate” and said it was his understanding that Boudan knew about the affair for some time before his death.

Under cross, Lopez said Pershing had voluntarily submitted to a second interview and had made herself available to detectives.

Another defense witness, Frank Taylor, Brett Boudan’s step-brother, said Pershing had told him she was eligible for new life and health insurance policies through Boudan’s job.

In fact, Boudan’s probationary period at his job had not ended, and he was not yet eligible for health and life insurance policies when he died.

Before resting, the defense also called Henley’s wife, two daughters and his pastor, all of whom testified that he had a reputation for nonviolence.

Judge Martin E. Coady refused to allow the defense to enter evidence that Pershing posted information about a new relationship in the months just after Boudan’s death, saying it wasn’t relevant.

Bartholomew indicated that he may call one or two rebuttal witnesses when the trial resumes Thursday morning.

If convicted of second degree murder, Henley faces a mandatory life sentence.