A Baton Rouge man who served prison time after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the 1992 slaying of carjacked LSU freshman Kipp Earl Gullett is now facing a felony drug charge that could land him behind bars again.
Zebbie Berthelot, 37, was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday on a charge of possession of methamphetamine, but he told state District Judge Richard Anderson he needed more time to hire a lawyer. The judge reset the arraignment for May 20.
Baton Rouge police arrested Berthelot on the drug charge on Dec. 31, three months after his parole supervision in the Gullett case was terminated, East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney John Russell said.
“Because of that, the odds of him getting jail time (if convicted) go up substantially, but it would certainly be up to the judge,” the prosecutor said, adding that a conviction for methamphetamine possession carries up to five years in prison.
Ironically, another man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served time in the Gullett case is now serving a federal prison sentence of nearly 16 years for distribution of methamphetamine.
Roy Maurer, who was paroled in 2002 from his 20-year term in the Gullett case, was arrested by federal agents in 2008 on suspicion of selling methamphetamine from his Jefferson Highway apartment. He pleaded guilty to methamphetamine distribution and was sentenced to 188 months in federal prison in 2009.
Berthelot likewise was paroled in 2002 from his 20-year sentence in the Gullett case.
A police report states that Berthelot was found sleeping in a car at about 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 31 in the parking lot of the Waffle House at 2320 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd.
A police officer noticed Berthelot was sweaty and his pupils were very large, and he also observed cotton swabs and a green leafy substance which appeared to be marijuana in the car, the report says.
Berthelot was advised of his rights, and a search of Berthelot and the car revealed a glass container with a small bag of brown powder that tested positive for methamphetamine, a crack pipe and a scale, the report states. Berthelot admitted he has a drug problem, the report adds.
Berthelot and Maurer testified against Dale Dwayne Craig, the triggerman in the killing of Gullett, 18, of Pineville. Craig was convicted of first-degree murder in 1994 and sentenced to die.
The U.S. Supreme Court turned Craig’s death sentence into a life term when it banned the execution of juveniles in 2005. Craig was a week shy of his
18th birthday when he abducted Gullett at gunpoint from the Kirby Smith Hall parking lot on the LSU campus on Sept. 15, 1992. Berthelot admitted taking part in the abduction.
Gullett was taken to an isolated construction site on South Kenilworth Parkway where he was fatally shot. Prosecutors said Craig wanted Gullett’s Ford Bronco.
A fourth man, James Conrad Lavigne, was convicted in 1995 of second-degree murder of Gullett and received a life sentence. Berthelot and Maurer pleaded guilty that same year.