OPELOUSAS — A St. Landry Parish jury deliberated two hours Friday before convicting Kurt Dwayne Miller of negligent homicide in the 2009 death of girlfriend Laura Coates.
Miller, 36, had been indicted on second-degree murder in Coates’ death, which his defense attorney, Roy Richard, blamed on a drug overdose but which the prosecution said was a fatal beating.
A poll of jurors following the verdict indicated 10 votes for negligent homicide. Two jurors voted “no” for that verdict.
District Judge Gerard Caswell set an April 9 sentencing date for Miller and said he will allow Miller to remain free on bond and continue ankle bracelet monitoring until sentencing.
Miller faces a sentence of up to five years, Richard said.
During the four-day trial, which began Tuesday, prosecutor Donald Richard said the numerous bruises on Coates’ body at the time of her death indicate she was beaten severely by Miller.
Miller arrived at the house the couple shared on U.S. 190 east of Port Barre soon after dark on Dec. 19 and found Coates unresponsive, sitting in a “yoga position” and slumped on the floor.
Miller testified he tried unsuccessfully to revive Coates by slapping her and throwing cold water on her.
Three hours later, Miller testified, he dragged Coates into his Chevrolet S-10 pickup and began driving her to Opelousas General Hospital.
Port Barre officers stopped Miller’s truck west of Port Barre because he was speeding.
On the way to the hospital, Miller said, he made a 911 telephone call and Acadian Ambulance paramedics arrived after the police stopped him.
Donald Richard, the prosecutor, noted that as emergency room personnel began attending to Coates, they noticed that her condition showed symptoms that were inconsistent with a drug overdose.
Coates’ injuries examined by emergency room physician Nicole Lafleur, Coroner Russell Pavlich and Joel Carnary, who performed an autopsy, all concluded she had been beaten, Donald Richard noted. “Laura Coates didn’t die of a drug overdose; she died from being beaten to death,” Richard said.
The prosecutor said Coates’ hair was discovered by parish deputies lodged in the bumper of the S-10, inside a broken headlight on the truck, globs of hair on the porch steps of the house and indications that some of Coates’ hair had been ripped out by the roots.
Coates’ death certificate says she died by “blunt force trauma,” Donald Richard said.
However, defense attorney Roy Richard argued on Friday that Miller’s actions at the house show a trail of resuscitation — including slapping her — that explains Miller’s behavior during the three hours he was with Coates before they left for the hospital.