Jurors in murder trials typically are told how a victim died. But during the recently concluded second-degree murder trial of Derrick George Gordy, an East Baton Rouge Parish jury heard the final five minutes and 42 seconds of Pat Aldridge’s life.
Aldridge, 40, called the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office Kleinpeter Substation from her South Sunderland Avenue home the night of Sept. 30, 2009, to report that several men had just threatened the life of one of her son’s friends.
“We have a group of black guys over here … and three of them just told us if we don’t leave or if we say anything, they’re going to kill us,’’ Aldridge calmly told dispatcher Roger Zecchel in a recorded 911 call that began at 9:49 p.m. “We got people surrounded around where they’re at, trying to keep them boxed in ’til y’all get here.’’
A short time later, Aldridge could be heard yelling, “There they go, there they go, up King Bradford (Drive). There they go. Run, run, run. There they go. Catch ’em. Go.’’
Aldridge tells Zecchel that four men are running toward O’Neal Lane and a Circle K store at the corner of O’Neal and South Harrell’s Ferry Road. When Zecchel asks why her son’s friend was threatened, Aldridge explains that her son was moving out of his apartment on South Sunderland and a friend who was helping her son came upon the group of men and was threatened by them.
Then on the tape recording, as a vehicle driven by Jay Winters Jr. speeds toward her, Aldridge starts yelling, “Come on (expletive). Speed up. Come try and hit me. Come on. I want you to.’’
Winters, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and accessory charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, testified at Gordy’s trial that Gordy and another teenager rushed into Winters’ Yorkfield Drive apartment the night of the shooting.
Winters said Gordy, who had smoked marijuana and played video games at Winters’ apartment on prior occasions, grabbed a loaded AK-47 assault rifle from the den and walked out. Winters, 31, said he decided to follow them in his car.
“Come on. Here they come,’’ Aldridge continues yelling on the 911 call. “Here they come. Here they come. Right after me. Here they come.’’
With 44 seconds remaining in the call, Aldridge’s agonizing screams can be heard as a hail of gunfire from the AK-47 erupts. Aldridge was shot 13 times. Her son, Ronald Thacker Jr., 21, was shot four times. With 10 seconds left on the call, Aldridge utters in a low voice, “I’m dead.’’
“Ma’am? Ma’am? Ma’am?’’ Zecchel asks, but gets no reply.
Gordy, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, was tried last month on two counts of second-degree murder but convicted on two counts of manslaughter.
The 911 recording, which brought several jurors to tears, captured the brutality of Aldridge’s slaying but also may have given the jury ammunition for its manslaughter verdicts. The jury asked during its deliberations to hear the 911 call again, but the request was denied.
Louisiana law defines manslaughter as a homicide “committed in sudden passion or heat of blood immediately caused by provocation sufficient to deprive an average person of his self-control and cool reflection.’’ The law adds that “provocation shall not reduce a homicide to manslaughter if the jury finds that the offender’s blood had actually cooled, or that an average person’s blood would have cooled, at the time the offense was committed.’’
Joe Gyan Jr. covers courts for The Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.