East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors said Wednesday they will no longer seek the death penalty against accused killer Trucko Stampley after relatives of his four alleged victims testified they want him tried sooner than later so they can move on with their lives.
State District Judge Bonnie Jackson wasted no time in setting a Jan. 23 trial date — the first trial date for Stampley, 23, of Baton Rouge, since his arrest in April 2007.
“We can never close the book, but we can at least turn the page,’’ Desiree S. Pedescleaux, the daughter of Marie Pedescleaux and sister of Denise Pedescleaux, said outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse when asked about finally having a trial date in the case.
“I’m looking forward to getting it over with,’’ added Susan Colvin, the daughter of Charles and Ann Colvin. Ann Colvin would have celebrated her birthday Wednesday.
Stampley is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the April 2007 slayings of Marie Pedescleaux, 80, and her daughter Denise, 46; and the Colvins, both 73.
Until Wednesday, prosecutors had intended to seek the death penalty. The victims’ families learned Wednesday that a defense appeal of a death penalty-related issue in the case could have delayed the trial for another year.
“Thank God they took the death penalty off my son,’’ Stampley’s father, Larry Stampley, said after court. “That’s a blessing they ain’t going to kill him.’’
The Pedescleauxes were found shot to death April 25, 2007, in their Crown Avenue home in Glen Oaks. Two days later, the Colvins were discovered fatally shot in their Thibodeaux Avenue residence in Goodwood Estates.
Desiree Pedescleaux, a political science professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, tearfully testified in support of a prosecution motion to withdraw its notice to seek the death penalty. She said she wants “justice’’ for her mother and sister and also would “love to sever all ties with Baton Rouge.’’
“There’s nothing left for me here,’’ she said later outside the courthouse.
Susan Colvin, who lives in Birmingham, Ala., testified her family agreed with the decision to forgo seeking the death penalty in order to “see it go to trial as soon as possible’’ and “get this process behind us.’’
“I’d like to think we’re doing what she and dad would want,’’ Colvin said of her parents.
Colvin said after court that the long length of time it takes to try a murder defendant “erases the people it happened to almost.’’
Asked about the rationale behind withdrawing the death penalty as a possible sentence in the Stampley case, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III pointed to the grieving relatives of the Pedescleauxes and Colvins and noted that serial killer Derrick Todd Lee was convicted in 2004 but his appeals of his death sentence are still tracking through the state court system.
Moore also pointed to the murder of Baton Rouge police Cpl. Betty Smothers in 1993. Henri Broadway and Kevan Brumfield were convicted at separate first-degree murder trials in 1995 and sentenced to death, but Broadway’s appeals continue to work their way through state district court while Brumfield has an appeal in federal district court.
“If we’re going to have death (sentences), let’s get it on,’’ a frustrated Moore told reporters.
Richard Goorley, one of Stampley’s court-appointed attorneys with the Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana, told Jackson, “We will be ready for trial on Jan. 23.’’
Prosecutor Darwin Miller said the same of the state.
The emotional hearing ended with Stampley complaining to the judge about not being held in the general inmate population at Parish Prison.
“I can’t order the sheriff to move you into (the) general population,’’ Jackson replied.
Stampley has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. He has been found competent to proceed.