One of the two men awaiting trial in the 2015 robbery, beating, kidnapping and killing of a Highland Road couple claims he can't get a fair trial in East Baton Rouge Parish and has asked a judge to move it to a different jurisdiction.
Frank Garcia, who has a court-appointed attorney, filed a motion on his own asking state District Judge Trudy White for a change of venue in the high-profile first-degree murder case.
Garcia's cousin, Ernesto Llerena Alonso, who lived in an apartment above a barn on property owned by Denis "Bubbie" Duplantier, 71, and Suzanne "Suzy" Duplantier, 70, and did landscaping work for them, also is charged with first-degree murder in the October 2015 slaying.
Garcia, 50, and Alonso, 44, are scheduled to stand trial June 18. They face life prison terms if found guilty as charged. Prosecutors announced in 2016 that, after consulting with the victims' family, they would not seek the death penalty in order to expedite the case.
The couple's bodies were found Oct. 19, 2015, in the back seat of their red pickup at the Petro truck stop in Hammond. Authorities have said they were strangled. Alonso's white pickup was captured on surveillance video as it followed the Duplantiers' truck into the gas station.
A safe inside the Duplantier home was discovered open, with cash missing. Investigators have said they believe Garcia and Alonso went into the home and beat the couple to get the information needed to open the safe. Blood was found in several rooms, according to police.
A large amount of cash and a number of unspecified items believed stolen from the Duplantier home were discovered in Garcia's home in Florida, authorities have said. Alonso's truck also was recovered at Garcia's house.
In the motion he filed Friday pro se, meaning he filed it on his own, Garcia claims he can't get a fair and impartial trial in East Baton Rouge because of the media coverage of the case. He alleges "media slander" without providing any specific example.
Garcia also claims his court-appointed attorneys have failed to provide him with any discovery materials and alleges "the public defender's office has colluded with the district attorney's office to prevent defendant from being afforded a fair and impartial trial."
Garcia's attorney, Mike Mitchell, the chief public defender in East Baton Rouge Parish, declined comment Wednesday on Garcia's motion.
Garcia also states the alleged failure to promptly provide him with discovery material has led him to conclude "the district attorney's office has fabricated evidence against him" in the past two years.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Garcia's pro se motion is "without merit or fact and would be subject to sanction if filed by a licensed attorney."
Alonso is represented by Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana lawyer Dwight Doskey, who last spring raised the possibility of Alonso and Garcia being tried separately but simultaneously by two different juries in one courtroom. No more has been said on that issue since it was first raised.
Both men are being held without bail.