Denham Springs man held in death of girlfriend

A Denham Springs man with a history of domestic violence admitted beating his girlfriend to death with a metal pipe — a crime witnessed by at least one of the three young children in their house, authorities said Tuesday.

Jerry J. Pinestraw Jr., 37, told investigators he fatally struck his live-in girlfriend, Nicole M. Ozment, 29, during a heated argument either late Monday or early Tuesday at their Denham Springs home, Sheriff Jason Ard said.

A woman living nearby called 911 early Tuesday to notify deputies they were needed at the couple’s home in the 8600 block of Chickasaw Street. At the home, deputies found Ozment’s three children, all under the age of 10, and Pinestraw, who cooperated fully with investigators, Ard said.

Investigators are in the process of interviewing the children, who are now in state custody, the sheriff said.

The children, whose specific ages were not released, are Ozment’s — Pinestraw is not their father, Ard said.

“At least one of them did witness and see the actual crime,” Ard said. He would not say where in the house the fatal beating took place or what rooms the children were in at the time.

“I think it was all over (the house),” Ard said of the fight. “I don’t think it was in one particular room.”

It was unclear Tuesday what prompted the neighbor to call deputies to the couple’s home at 8661 Chickasaw St., just north of Vincent Road near its intersection with Pete’s Highway.

Ard said he didn’t know what the couple was arguing about.

Investigators reported Ozment suffered severe facial trauma, Ard said, but they’re awaiting results of an autopsy scheduled Wednesday morning to determine the mother’s official cause of death.

He added it may take a few days before his office receives those results.

Pinestraw has a history of domestic violence, Ard said, although he could not provide details about specific instances other than to say his deputies arrested Pinestraw at least once after a domestic incident.

Ard also said a warrant is still outstanding for Pinestraw’s arrest on misdemeanor domestic abuse battery, though the sheriff could not recall late Tuesday which agency issued the warrant.

Deputies booked Pinestraw into the Livingston Parish Detention Center on a count of second-degree murder and three counts of child desertion. Under Louisiana law, child desertion involves either intentionally or negligently exposing children under the age of 10 to dangerous circumstances where they cannot reasonably be expected to protect themselves.

Pinestraw’s bail was set at $500,000, booking records show.

Deputies do not expect to make additional arrests, Ard said, although the counts against Pinestraw could change as the investigation continues.

Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter @_BenWallace and Ryan Broussard @ryanmbroussard.