Grace Kaynor welled up in tears.
Her husband, paralyzed since two bullets tore through him in his driveway on a cool October night in 2012, was absent from an Orleans Parish courtroom when the guilty verdicts came in late Friday.
Once a successful lawyer at the Jones Walker law firm, Sanford Bull “Sandy” Kaynor now is bound to a wheelchair and can no longer talk. But a Criminal District Court jury seemed to speak for him, and for the family of slain UNO student and U.S. Navy veteran Valan May.
The jury of eight women and four men convicted Charles Carter Jr. on charges of second-degree murder in May’s killing in 2012, attempted murder in Sandy Kaynor’s shooting less than three weeks earlier and three counts of armed robbery.
Carter, who was 16 when Sandy Kaynor and May were shot 17 days and 12 miles apart, faces a life prison sentence.
Because he was a juvenile at the time, though, he stands a shot at parole when he’s about 55. That decision will be up to Judge Laurie White, who presided over the weeklong trial and set a Feb. 5 sentencing date for Carter, who is now 19.
Carter loosened his tie and nodded his head after the verdicts were read.
The jury deliberated for nearly five hours before returning guilty verdicts on all but one count, an aggravated burglary charge of ransacking the Kaynor home after shooting the husband and father of two.
“I’m glad he’s going to be off the streets and can’t hurt anyone else. There’s not justice for anyone,” Grace Kaynor said after the verdict. “Because I lost everything. I’ve lost a husband, and the kids lost a father. It’s senseless and sad.”
One of three defendants charged in what prosecutors described as a spree of armed robberies turned bloody, Carter was tried alone.
One alleged accomplice, Byron “Poodie Man” Johnson, pleaded guilty in September to several crimes in the spate of car thefts and stick-ups, including Sandy Kaynor’s shooting and the ransacking of his Camp Street home with Grace Kaynor and their 8-year-old daughter, Phoebe, inside it.
Johnson, now 23, accepted a 45-year prison sentence.
He wasn’t present when May was killed. But police say the third defendant, Devante “Tae Banger” Billy, was. Billy, 21, still awaits trial.
Billy is accused of shooting May in the back of the head at Carter’s urging during an armed robbery Oct. 19, 2012, in the 7900 block of Burke Avenue in New Orleans East.
Prosecutors Jason Napoli and Alex Calenda portrayed Carter and his fellow alleged “Marley Gang” members as hellbent on mayhem when they stole a pickup in late September 2012 and headed out armed and looking to rob.
Chased by a neighbor at their first stop, Bellaire Drive, where they held up a woman, they crashed the truck and limped it back to New Orleans East before stealing another truck, the prosecutors said.
Calenda told the jury that Carter and the others soon grew emboldened. After shooting Sandy Kaynor about 10:30 p.m. Oct. 2, 2012, severing his spine and ripping his organs, they took belongings from the house and stole the family’s Cadillac SUV, stepping over Kaynor as he lay on the pavement, prosecutors said.
May was next, a few weeks later.
The 24-year-old film student had been called by a friend, Marvielle Smith, to give her and a mutual friend, Aalilyah Cobb, a ride to a party. The teenage girls’ dates that night were Carter and Billy.
Carter approached May’s vehicle, demanding money, but May had only $25, Smith testified. So Billy swiped May’s GPS navigation system and then got in the backseat behind May before Carter handed him a pistol and told him, “Just kill him,” Smith testified Thursday.
Seconds earlier, May had told Carter, “You don’t know who y’all (messing) with,” Smith said.
“Valan made the mistake of opening his mouth. He didn’t realize what he was dealing with,” Calenda told the jury during his closing argument Friday.
“Charles Carter was emboldened,” Calenda said. “He was getting that bloodlust. He was getting that taste, and he felt untouchable, as did Devante Billy. Human life wasn’t a concern. Now it was, ‘Get what you can get and the hell with what stands in your way.’ ”
Police found Carter’s and Johnson’s DNA, along with Sandy Kaynor’s blood, on a bandana left outside the Kaynor house in the 3500 block of Camp Street.
They found Carter’s fingerprint in the Cadillac SUV. A print of Carter’s left ring finger was found on the driver’s door of May’s Saturn sedan.
Defense attorney John Fuller sought to minimize that evidence, telling the jury that the only crime the physical evidence proved against Carter was possession of a stolen automobile — a charge for which Carter, because of his youth at the time, couldn’t have been tried in criminal court.
Fuller didn’t dispute that Carter was at the scene of May’s murder, as he told police a stranger had come up and shot the film student. But Fuller urged the jury to ignore the suggestion of a crime spree, arguing that the state’s case in each individual robbery was weak.
Seeking to blame Johnson and Billy for the shootings, Fuller argued that Carter was guilty mainly of keeping the wrong company.
“At no point has anyone suggested that this boy was an angel and that he didn’t hang out with Devante Billy and Byron Johnson,” Fuller said as he stood behind his client. “But this is not a killer.”
After the verdict, Fuller and fellow defense attorney Gregory Carter said the evidence against their client was daunting.
“This is one of the toughest cases we’ve had from a legal standpoint, and the emotional toll on the victims’ families was something we appreciated and respected,” Fuller said.
The attorneys said they planned to appeal the verdicts, which were unanimous on the murder count for May’s slaying and for the armed robbery count for robbing the Kaynors. The jury found Charles Carter guilty on 10-2 votes on the other three charges for which he was convicted.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.