Emma Raine was the marrying kind. Also, the killing-her-husband kind, according to Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.
The 50-year-old woman is suspected of engineering the murders of three of her former husbands, prosecutors say.
The first was “mysteriously hit by a car,” Assistant District Attorney Laura Rodrigue told a jury Wednesday. “He later became a paraplegic and, mysteriously, his feeding tube had been removed.” Emma then collected on the life insurance, Rodrigue said.
She later married Ernest Smith, a 38-year-old pastor. He was found shot dead outside the couple’s house in a nearly barren New Orleans East neighborhood several months after Hurricane Katrina. According to prosecutors, Emma and her side beau, James Raine, plotted the killing and collected on an $800,000 insurance claim.
Emma then married Raine. But he, too, would end up dead, shot inside the Mississippi house they bought with the proceeds from Smith’s death. Again, Emma collected the insurance payout, Rodrigue said, this time also collecting on the house, which later burned down.
Only after the death of a third husband did police finally catch up with Emma, though so far she has been charged only in the death of Smith, dead husband No. 2.
Emma is accused of conspiring with James Raine to hire Raine’s adopted brother, Alfred “Terry” Everette, to be the trigger man. And it was Everette who sat at the defense table in an Orleans Parish criminal courtroom Wednesday as a jury heard evidence.
Emma is slated to be tried early next year.
Still, even though she was absent Wednesday, it was her alleged exploits that took center stage in a case that Cannizzaro himself is trying alongside Rodrigue, the DA’s daughter.
Cannizzaro last tried a case before a jury in the 2012 prosecution of Eric Traczyk, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the apparently random fatal slashing of 28-year-old Nina Robinson inside Pal’s Lounge in Mid-City in 2007.
Rodrigue took the lead in opening statements Wednesday, describing how police keyed in on Everette, 30, after James Raine’s murder.
Another sibling, Enoch Raine, testified that shortly after the murder Everette confessed to family members that he had killed Smith at the behest of Emma and James Raine for a promised $8,000 to $10,000, never slowing down as he tossed the 9mm handgun into Lake Pontchartrain on the drive back to Mississippi.
Enoch Raine said Everette promised to confess but never did, even though it seemed to them that their own brother had met the same fate as Smith.
“These two cases is very similar. It’s about insurance money,” Enoch Raine said.
Prosecutors agreed. Rodrigue suggested that Emma simply “got bored” with James Raine after she had conspired with him to kill Smith and collect the proceeds.
Everette’s defense attorney, Michael Kennedy, said his client never admitted anything to family members, nor to a fellow jail inmate, Donald Glover, who is expected to testify for the prosecution about a detailed confession Everette allegedly offered while behind bars.
Kennedy said his client was adopted into the family and “is treated like one of the stepsisters to Cinderella. He’s used as the fall guy.”
Kennedy described the prosecution’s focus on Emma Raine as a smokescreen for a weak case against Everette, with no physical evidence tying him to Smith’s killing.
“That was a great story. It would make a great movie. I would totally go see that movie. Woman killed one, two, three husbands and burned down a house?” Kennedy told the jury.
“Wow, that Emma, she sounds like a real piece of work. That sounds like a compelling story about Emma, about James,” Kennedy added. “But my client’s not Emma Raine.”
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