LAFAYETTE — A man on trial in the 2009 fatal shooting of his former neighbor intends to testify Wednesday that the shooting was in self-defense, the victim was the aggressor and the victim had defaced his property.
Jerry Steinle, 62, a retired helicopter pilot for Lafayette-based Petroleum Helicopters Inc., is charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of David Trahan, 40, following a disturbance under Steinle’s carport on Rena Drive on Dec. 10, 2009. Trahan was shot three times with a .380-caliber handgun, court records show.
A bench trial before state District Judge Edward D. Rubin began Tuesday morning and is expected to conclude Wednesday.
The history between Steinle and Trahan did not fully surface during Tuesday’s proceedings, although Trahan’s sister, Deborah Carter, did testify that the Trahan family had lived on Rena Drive in a home next-door to Steinle in the 1980s.
She said Steinle was a family friend who often visited their home, and who also often asked her brothers, David and Dallas, who were 10 and 12 respectively, to help him at his home.
Carter said she later learned that something had occurred between Steinle and her brothers, although she was not allowed to discuss in court what her brothers had told her.
“This was something he’d been living with since he was a child,” Carter said, referring to David Trahan.
Crime scene video showed that Trahan had written “Jerry has sex with little boys” on the door under the carport at Steinle’s home.
Police have said Steinle caught Trahan defacing the door and confronted him beneath the carport. During that confrontation, Steinle shot Trahan, who died on Steinle’s front lawn, police have said.
In court filings, defense attorney Thomas E. Guilbeau contends that Trahan intentionally sought Steinle out at Steinle’s home and attacked him beneath the carport, “striking him on the left side of his face, in spite of the fact that Mr. Steinle had repeatedly told him to ‘get off my property’ prior to being struck.”
Court filings say that Steinle will testify that he shot Trahan after Trahan continued to rush him threatening to “kill” him, which led Steinle to believe he was in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm.
Steinle called 911 and reported that he had shot Trahan. He also later admitted to the shooting when questioned by officers, according to testimony in court.
Trahan’s ex-wife, Melissa C. Trahan, testified that her ex-husband had never discussed any desire to kill Steinle.
However, she said she felt the date of the shooting was more than just a coincidence, as it occurred just one day after the couple’s anniversary.
Melissa Trahan had filed for a separation in April 2009 and the December anniversary marked the first time David Trahan had been away from the family, she said.
She said her ex-husband had become troubled and traumatized by something, although she was not allowed to say what her husband had told her because it is considered hearsay.
“I believe he very much felt that the reason he wasn’t with his family was because of the defendant,” Trahan said.
David Trahan had attempted suicide at least three times, his ex-wife said.
During cross examination by Guilbeau, Melissa Trahan testified that her husband had threatened her, telling her that he and she would die if she tried to take their children.
A former next-door neighbor, Margaret Moore, testified that she was standing outside when she heard what sounded like fireworks going off beneath Steinle’s carport.
Soon after, Moore said, she saw a man running from the carport and toward her. She said she recognized the man as the same man whom she had seen several years earlier on top of Steinle’s roof.
She said the man had climbed up and spray-painted the word “pedophile” down the length of Steinle’s roof.
The man walked toward the edge of the roof and shouted, “If you have kids, you better keep them away,” she said.
Moore said she had three young children and had never had any problems with Steinle, although she said the children had never entered his house.
Police have also said they had no record of any sexual abuse allegations against Steinle.
Trahan later pleaded no contest to one count of simple criminal damage to property in that incident, according to court records.
Assistant District Attorney Keith Stutes called more than 10 witnesses to the stand before resting his case Tuesday.
Afterward, Guilbeau asked Rubin for a directed verdict, arguing that Stutes had failed to prove the second-degree murder charge.
Rubin denied that motion. The trial is expected to resume at 9:30 a.m.