Jury selection is set to begin Monday afternoon in the second-degree murder trial of suspected serial killer Jeffery Lee Guillory, marking the third trial of an alleged serial murderer in Baton Rouge in just seven years.
The first such trial occurred in the fall of 2004 when Derrick Todd Lee was convicted of first-degree murder and condemned to die for the 2002 slaying of a former LSU graduate student.
Then, in the summer of 2008, Sean Vincent Gillis was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2004 strangulation of a Baton Rouge woman and sentenced to life in prison after the jury deadlocked during the penalty phase.
Ironically, Gillis’ name is expected to come up during Guillory’s trial.
Attorneys for Guillory, 45, contend Gillis, of Baton Rouge, associated with Renee Newman, the 46-year-old Baton Rouge woman Guillory is accused of strangling to death in 2002.
That contention is bolstered by the fact that a Baton Rouge police detective testified in November that Newman reportedly associated with Gillis.
A Louisiana State Police DNA analyst, however, testified at that same hearing there is only a 1-in-9.76 quadrillion chance that DNA found on the bodies of Newman and Florida Edwards, also of Baton Rouge, belongs to someone other than Guillory.
State District Judge Tony Marabella has given prosecutor Dana Cummings permission to introduce at Guillory’s trial his 2009 arrest in Edwards’ slaying and his conviction last year in the attempted murder of a Lafayette woman in 2007.
“We’re ready to go. We’re very confident about our case,’’ Cummings, who helped convict Lee, said last week.
“We’re very much ready to try this case, and we feel that the state will fail to meet its burden,’’ countered Franz Borghardt, one of Guillory’s court-appointed attorneys.
Guillory was arrested in December 2009 and booked in the deaths of Newman, Edwards and Sylvia Cobb, 36, of Baton Rouge. Cobb was beaten to death in 2001.
An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted Guillory in May 2010 only in the killing of Newman.
Her body was found April 11, 2002, behind the old Maison Blanche/Goudchaux’s building on Laurel Street.
The body of Edwards, 36, was discovered Sept. 3, 1999, inside the old Dynasty Lounge on North Boulevard. She died of strangulation and a blow to the back of the head, police said.
Police have said Guillory twice denied knowing or ever seeing Newman and Edwards.
Both women led high-risk lifestyles, police said. Guillory and Gillis targeted women who led such lifestyles, authorities said.
Guillory’s attorneys have subpoenaed Gillis to testify at the trial. The attorneys also are seeking Gillis’ taped police interviews and interrogations.
Guillory’s defense team, which also includes Sonya Hall and Robert Savage, cannot call Gillis to the stand if all he intends to do is assert his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
That issue apparently remains in limbo. Cummings and Borghardt were mum on the issue last week.
Guillory remains a suspect in several other unsolved killings of women in Baton Rouge that occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s, authorities have said.
Guillory already was in custody when he was arrested in the killings of Newman, Edwards and Cobb.
Guillory had been arrested in January 2008 after police identified him from a photograph taken at a Baton Rouge bank ATM where he was seen using a credit card stolen from Johnnie Rose Martinez in Lafayette.
A Lafayette police detective testified last fall that Guillory was homeless and living at a Salvation Army shelter in Lafayette when he severely beat and robbed Martinez after dragging her into a wooded area near the Walmart store on Evangeline Thruway on Dec. 29, 2007.
Guillory was convicted in that attack of second-degree robbery and attempted second-degree murder in March 2010 and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
If convicted of second-degree murder in Newman’s killing, he would receive an automatic sentence of life in prison.