LAFAYETTE — A state district judge found Jerry Steinle guilty of manslaughter Wednesday in the 2009 shooting of Steinle’s former neighbor, a man who had once spray-painted the word “pedophile” across Steinle’s roof.
Steinle, 62, who was on trial for second-degree murder, will now face a prison sentence of zero to 40 years when he is sentenced Aug. 18 by 15th Judicial District Judge Edward D. Rubin.
Steinle, a retired helicopter pilot for Petroleum Helicopters Inc., of Lafayette, testified Wednesday that he shot David Trahan, 40, in self-defense after Trahan struck him across the face during a confrontation under Steinle’s carport on Rena Drive on the afternoon of Dec. 10, 2009.
The confrontation occurred after Steinle discovered that Trahan had written “Jerry has sex with little boys” on the door under the carport.
Steinle said he was outside trying to clean off the writing when David Trahan returned and threatened to kill him.
Steinle said he had armed himself with a .380-caliber handgun and repeatedly told Trahan to “get off my property.”
Trahan refused and began to move toward him, telling Steinle, “I’m going to kill you,” Steinle testified.
The defendant said he believed Trahan was armed with a knife, although officers never recovered a knife on Trahan or at the scene.
“I’m absolutely positive I saw a blade,” Steinle said.
There were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, although at least one neighbor testified on Tuesday of hearing shouting coming from beneath the carport.
Steinle shot Trahan three times.
Trahan collapsed and died on Steinle’s front lawn.
During cross-examination, Prosecutor Keith Stutes questioned Steinle about why he did not simply call the police.
“You armed yourself. You went outside and you were prepared for David if he came back,” Stutes said.
Rubin said he could not agree with Steinle’s self-defense claim because “I don’t think the force used was reasonable.”
Defense attorney Thomas E. Guilbeau told Rubin that he objected to the verdict.
While the history between Steinle and Trahan was never fully revealed during the two-day trial, court filings claim the victim told family members years later that he was molested by Steinle while living next door to him in the 1980s.
Trahan would have been about 11 years old at the time.
Those same court filings say that Trahan’s brother also told family members that he was molested by Steinle.
Police have said they had no record of any sexual abuse allegations against Steinle.
In 2005, Trahan was cited for misdemeanor simple criminal damage to property for spray-painting “pedophile” on Steinle’s roof. Trahan later pleaded no contest to that charge.
Steinle also testified of another encounter with Trahan in December 2007, when he found Trahan outside his home.
Stutes questioned Steinle extensively about why Steinle had never sought a protective order against Trahan and why he had never filed a complaint with Lafayette police. Steinle said he did not see the point because it would have been his word against Trahan’s.
Steinle was allowed to remain free on $100,000 bail pending sentencing.