A Youngsville man accused in a 2011 double homicide in Lafayette was convicted Thursday on two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Lona Carter and Lemuel Brown.
Eric Abshire, 53, faces mandatory life sentences on both convictions and was taken into custody Thursday evening. Ten of 12 jury members returned guilty verdicts on both counts after a four-day trial and 1 ½ hours of deliberation.
Abshire’s attorney, Thomas Alonzo, said he plans to appeal.
“Based upon the evidence, the state’s case didn’t meet the applicable standards for conviction,” Alonzo said.
Carter, 39, and Brown, her 67-year-old stepfather, were found dead by a friend at their Warren Street home on the morning of July 27, 2011. Each died from a single bullet wound above the right eyebrow.
Brown’s younger brother, Thomas Brown, said he initially wanted the death penalty for Abshire, but he prayed about it, forgave him and hopes Abshire’s life sentence will be an opportunity for him to reflect on what happened.
“I didn’t want anyone to trade a life for a life. Every life is important,” Brown said. “And I think today, justice was served.”
Abshire was arrested the same day of the slayings at his Youngsville home on Langlinais Road, where police found an unmarked bottle filled with Xanax, Brown’s wallet — which was missing from his home — and a Ruger GP 100 .357 pistol with two empty .38-caliber special casings. Police also found several pieces of paperwork belonging to Carter and a satellite cable remote control from the home.
Police had been staking out Abshire’s home that day, and when he returned, he parked in the back of the house and was seen sneaking around his backyard to enter the home, according to testimony from the officer who arrested him.
“These are the actions of a murderer,” prosecutor Cynthia Simon said.
Abshire maintained his innocence when he took the stand Thursday and described the crack addiction that fueled his relationship with Carter, who he said sold her body in the home she shared with Brown to fund her own crack addiction.
Abshire testified they were on a crack binge that started on a Friday and lasted until the Tuesday night before Carter and Brown were killed. Abshire claimed he returned to the house that Wednesday morning to give Carter more money for crack, found them dead, panicked and grabbed everything he had touched — including the murder weapon, a gun he said he gave to Carter as collateral that weekend so she would front him drugs — and threw them into one of Carter’s bags.
Bullet fragments found during both victims’ autopsies were a match to the gun, Chris Henderson, the Acadiana Crime Lab employee who supervised the forensic investigation, testified.
The prosecution’s case relied heavily on Chad Duhon, a neighbor who in 2011 lived about 120 yards away from the Warren Street home. He testified to seeing an older white man in a truck like Abshire’s show up at the house the day of the slayings around 6 a.m.
Duhon testified that as he smoked a cigarette and drank coffee outside his house, he saw a man dressed in denim shorts and a dark-colored T-shirt with the sleeves cut off walk into the house before he heard two “pops” — the first one loud, the second one a little quieter.
But Duhon also said he was surprised to see Abshire’s face on the news after he was arrested.
“I thought, ‘That’s not the man I saw,’ ” he testified.
Alonzo focused on that statement in his closing argument, also pointing out that no forensic evidence proved Abshire pulled the trigger that morning. There was also no testing done on a stray drop of blood found outside the home.
Brown’s body was found near the home’s entrance on the kitchen floor, where he was shot while cooking a pan of fried chicken legs. Carter’s body was found halfway on her bed with her shirt raised up to her breasts and her pants unzipped, but a rape kit showed no sign of assault.
Simon retorted in her closing argument there was no sign of forced entry in the home.
“There’s no struggle,” she told the jury. “This wasn’t a stranger who came in and shot them.”
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.