Three years ago a home in Gonzales, Louisiana was burglarized. The throats of Robert Marchand, 74, and his wife Shirley, 72, were slashed. Also slain was their son-in-law, 50-year-old Douglas Dooley.
The thieves targeted the home expecting to find a safe containing gold.
Sentenced were Rolando Durrell Stewart, Devon James, and Travis “Buddah” Moore.
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Aikens had worked for Robert Marchand, an avoid coin collector, in his house-moving business and suggested the men could get quick money by burglarizing the safe.
Four of the men, Aikens, Bernard James, Moore and Stewart, showed up at the Marchand home at 10:20 p.m. Feb. 17, 2012, after Bernard James borrowed the sport utility vehicle from Devon James, a college graduate with a business degree.
Aikens went to the door and spoke with Marchand briefly until signaling the others.
Bernard James rushed the door and knocked down Marchand. Moore followed behind, stepped over an unconscious Marchand, who had been beaten by Aikens, and looked for the safe.
Shirley Marchand and Dooley happened upon the men and were beaten primarily by Aikens. Bernard James also hit Dooley with part of a two-by-four to get Dooley off Aikens’ back at one point.
But it was Aikens who beat him and was left alone with the Marchands and Dooley while the other three rolled the safe out the house.
As in Bernard James’ plea agreement, Devon James reported that Aikens later said: “Look at my knife; I still got skin in my knife.”
Devon James’ plea also says that Aikens added, “They had to go because they knew me.”
Devon James’ plea goes on to describe how the four men broke into the safe at his house and later disposed of it but noted that Devon James did not know of the slayings until days later.
Once he found out, Devon James painted his SUV with primer and removed his back seat to get rid of any DNA from Aikens.
But deputies ended up finding the safe and found Bernard James’ DNA inside it and on cigarette butts in Devon James’ Suburban.
Aikens pleaded guilty in October 2013 to three counts of first-degree murder.
In August, Bernard James pleaded guilty to first-degree murder counts in Robert Marchand’s and Dooley’s deaths and to a second-degree murder charge in Shirley Marchand’s death.
Once the proceedings were over Wednesday and Turner left the courtroom, prosecutors and family and friends of the Marchands and Dooley spoke quietly and hugged one another one last time.
The defendants, who had faced three counts of first-degree murder, reached plea bargains with prosecutors after the two central figures in the Feb. 17 slayings, Michael Aikens and Bernard James, had previously been convicted on three murder counts and sentenced to life in prison. Rolando Durrell Stewart, 25, 15379 Roy Rogers Road, Prairieville, who also had been convicted on unrelated charges, including an attempted second-degree murder count, received the longest sentence Wednesday, 63 years at hard labor.
Image credit: theadvocate.com ####
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