Amite — Assistant District Attorney Angel Monistere on Monday draped a tactical vest over a railing in front of the jury. She placed a knife next to it, then a gun, slamming it into the wood.
With each item, she repeated a phrase: “I can’t stop thinking about ways to torture (my ex-girlfriend) and her family.”
The phrase, a witness testified, had been spoken by Ryan Pourciau, 20.
After a five-day trial, a Tangipahoa Parish jury convicted Pourciau of second-degree murder in the killing of his ex-girlfriend’s mother, April Vander Linden, in April 2013. The charge carries a mandatory life sentence.
The day of the shooting, Pourciau entered the Vander Linden home armed and armored with the items Monistere presented the jurors.
Defense attorney Michael Thiel argued that Pourciau went to the Vander Lindens to scare them following several months of clashes after their daughter broke up with him. Vander Linden might have seen the gun and tried to wrestle it away from Pourciau, possibly pulling the trigger herself, the defense maintained, as they advocated for a lesser charge than manslaughter.
However, the physical evidence did not support that version of events, Monistere said.
Except for his shoes, Pourciau did not get any blood on him, which was unlikely if the two had wrestled for the weapon, the prosecutor said. There wasn’t even contact DNA from Vander Linden on Pourciau’s vest or evidence of his DNA under her fingernails to indicate a struggle, she said.
But, according to Monistere, the most damning evidence was the victim’s second gunshot wound.
Vander Linden was shot once in the chest, after which she ran outside and was shot again in the head.
A neighbor heard a scream and the first shot and looked toward the Vander Linden home where he saw a man walking coolly and calmly toward the back door, Monistere said. If Vander Linden had fired the shot that hit her, wouldn’t Pourciau be screaming and running, she asked the jury.
“He wanted to finish her off,” she said.
The first shot was enough to kill, but it would have taken about 10 minutes, and the prosecutor wondered if that would have been enough time to give Vander Linden life-saving medical attention.
“It’s a two-shot kind of case,” Monistere said. “She could have lived. … He didn’t give her that break.”
In his own closing arguments, Thiel attempted to cast doubt on law enforcement who investigated the shooting.
“To say that the crime scene investigation was woefully inadequate is the understatement of the year,” he said.
Law enforcement did not take the crime scene seriously until an officer shot Pourciau at the Vander Linden home the next day when he was arrested, at which time detectives stepped up their efforts once one of their own was under scrutiny, Thiel said.
He asked why investigators didn’t perform certain bullet trajectory and gunshot residue tests.
He also advised jurors that if Pourciau got a few details wrong when he told law enforcement that he had struggled with Vander Linden, the discrepancies might have been because he had just been shot by one of the officers who found him and was in pain or shock or under the influence of medication.
However, the jury sided with the District Attorney’s office and returned a 10-2 guilty verdict after approximately one hour of deliberation.
“I am thankful that the jury was able to see through the smoke and mirrors of the defense and able to come to the conclusion that our family was harassed, stalked, hunted by pure evil,” said Brett Vander Linden, the widower of the victim, after the jury delivered its verdict.
“My family can now begin the healing process.”
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.