Families vow to see case until the end despite delays
Four and a half years have passed since Marie and Denise Pedescleaux and Charles and Ann Colvin were found shot to death two days apart in their Baton Rouge homes.
Four and a half years, and Trucko Stampley — the Baton Rouge man charged with capital murder in the double-slayings — still has no trial date.
“We realize sometimes justice moves slowly, extremely slowly. All of the delays have certainly kept the wound close to the surface and been very frustrating for us,’’ Desiree S. Pedescleaux, the daughter of Marie Pedescleaux and sister of Denise Pedescleaux, said in a recent email exchange.
“It is frustrating, very frustrating, that it has gone on this long and we don’t have a definite end in sight,’’ added Susan Colvin, the Colvins’ daughter. “Hopefully, a trial date will be set soon.’’
The next court date on Colvin’s calendar is Oct. 19, which also happens to be Ann Colvin’s birthday. She would have turned 78 on that date.
Stampley, 23, is scheduled to appear then before state District Judge Bonnie Jackson for a hearing on the prosecution’s request that the judge sanction him for refusing to cooperate with a court-ordered examination related to the defense’s mental retardation claim.
“There’s no doubt Trucko is mentally retarded,’’ Richard Goorley, one of Stampley’s court-appointed attorneys, said in a recent telephone interview.
Stampley bristles at the suggestion that he has mental problems.
At the request of his attorneys, East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies transported Stampley to a New Orleans hospital on July 1 for a brain scan, but Stampley torpedoed the examination by refusing to get out of the vehicle. He was returned to Parish Prison.
Goorley said the requested PET scan would have examined Stampley’s brain “to see if there are any abnormalities.’’
“With his history of banging his head, we expected there would be,’’ he said.
After entering a dual plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to four counts of first-degree murder in the fall of 2008, Stampley fought for a while last year to withdraw the insanity portion of his plea. He eventually gave up that fight.
“A rational person would want to explore all their avenues, but irrational doesn’t mean retarded,’’ cautioned Baton Rouge medical psychologist Marc Zimmermann, who is not involved in the Stampley case but has been no stranger to local capital murder cases in which mental health issues were raised.
Stampley’s mother testified in the spring of 2010 that he was in special education classes as a child and used to bang his head against walls and sit under their house for hours at a time and bang on pipes.
Stampley became audibly agitated while Shela Stampley was on the witness stand, and she told him to “Please shut up.’’
“They (mentally ill persons) know there’s something wrong with them, but they don’t want the label,’’ explained Zimmermann, whose services have been used in such high-profile cases as convicted south Louisiana serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis, condemned mass murderer Anthony Bell and convicted child-killer Clayton Murphy Jr., all of Baton Rouge.
Mentally ill or malingering
Marie Pedescleaux, 80, and her 46-year-old daughter, Denise Pedescleaux, were found shot to death April 25, 2007, in their Crown Avenue home in Glen Oaks.
Charles “Chick’’ Colvin III and his wife, Ann Lynn Colvin, were discovered April 27, 2007, three days after being fatally shot in their Thibodeaux Avenue residence in Goodwood Estates.
Stampley was arrested April 26, 2007, in the killing of the Pedescleauxs but was not indicted until Oct. 1, 2008, in the deaths of the Pedescleauxs and Colvins.
That’s because Stampley spent more than a year at the state mental hospital after his arrest.
State District Judge Lou Daniel sent Stampley there in June 2007 after the two psychiatrists ordered by the judge to evaluate Stampley — then 19 — testified that severe mental disorders had become increasingly evident since his incarceration.
The psychiatrists said he was not faking a mental illness.
Fast-forward to August 2008, when Daniel found Stampley competent to proceed after a psychologist and psychiatrist from the state mental hospital testified they believed Stampley had been malingering — or feigning — some of his reported psychological problems.
Zimmermann described malingering as “trying to create a false impression.’’
Stampley was promptly indicted and five weeks later on Oct. 28, 2008, he entered his dual plea. Prosecutors said they intend to seek the death penalty.
Zimmermann cautioned that mental illness and malingering are not mutually exclusive terms.
“You can be mentally retarded and still malinger,’’ he noted.
Goorley, who contends Stampley was insane at the time of the alleged crimes, acknowledged that mental retardation is not a defense to a crime.
Darwin Miller, the man prosecuting Stampley, said sanity at the time of the offenses would be determined at the guilt phase of the trial. Mental retardation is a sentencing phase issue, he added.
The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the execution of the mentally retarded.
Stampley’s attorneys once again asked Daniel in early 2010 to appoint doctors to examine Stampley’s mental capacity to proceed. They complained Stampley would not communicate with them.
Daniel again found Stampley competent to proceed in July 2010. Miller revealed in court at that time that Stampley had sent a letter to Parish Prison officials declaring he is “not playing crazy no more.’’
Miller said in a recent interview that the issue of competency to proceed can be raised at any time by the defense.
“I do think he’s competent now,’’ Goorley said.
‘A solid foundation’
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he understands the frustration felt by the victims’ families and the public, but said the Stampley case cannot go to trial until all pretrial issues are resolved.
“We have to make sure we get it right,’’ he said.
Miller noted that the defense has filed more than 100 motions over the course of the case.
“When you’re dealing with cases that are very complex, it’s like building a house. You have to have a solid foundation,’’ Miller explained.
Pedescleaux, who is dean of undergraduate studies at Spelman College in Atlanta, agrees.
“We would rather have the legal process done ‘by the book’ rather than have the matter overturned on some technicality by a higher court and have to start all over again,’’ she said.
Zimmermann said capital murder cases in which mental health issues are raised “are never easy cases.’’
“It’s hard to ferret all this stuff out,’’ he said.
Stampley has threatened on more than one occasion to fire his attorneys. Then came a threat of a different kind.
On April 26, the fourth anniversary of Stampley’s arrest in the deaths of the Pedescleauxs, Daniel stepped down from presiding over the case, citing a “somewhat elaborate death threat’’ from Stampley.
That is when the case was handed to Jackson.
“Obviously, we are committed to seeing this through to the end and we will continue to be there until we get a resolution,’’ said Colvin, who drives to Baton Rouge from Alabama for every court hearing.
“My family and I will see this to the end, no matter how long it takes,’’ Pedescleaux added.