GONZALES — The last of three men involved in a Christmas Eve morning home invasion robbery in Gonzales more than two years ago pleaded guilty Monday to all charges after attorneys had seated a jury and were preparing for opening arguments in his trial this week.
Lionel Caire, 22, 14053 Wales St., New Orleans, and two other men followed a Gonzales couple home from a movie theater at the Mall of Louisiana in Baton Rouge early on the morning of Dec. 24, 2012, Caire acknowledged during the plea Monday.
Jennifer and Charles Chase were held at gunpoint once they got home, had their cellphones taken and were forced inside. The men also stole the Chase’s television and Xbox, other electronics, Christmas presents, guns and two vehicles, Caire acknowledged.
The men became angry when they realized the couple had a gun case in the house and had not told them.
Charles Chase, 26, told the men the guns were in his truck. The trio later left with the guns, vehicles and other items, Caire acknowledged.
Before the guilty plea, the mother and other family of Caire could be seen urging him to take a plea in hopes he would get a lighter sentence and one day get out of prison.
“You got to come home,” the mother, who did not provide her name, said.
Among the various charges facing Caire were two counts of armed robbery, each of which can bring up to 99 years in prison.
His defense attorney, Blaine Hebert, said prosecutors had said they would seek to bill Caire as a habitual offender if he were convicted, potentially bringing more time. Caire had a previous burglary conviction.
Assistant District Attorney Shawn Bush said Caire’s two co-conspirators, Tyronne Tolliver, 22, 4134 MacArthur Blvd., New Orleans, and Roderrick Dawon Jones, 20, 1518 France St., New Orleans, pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of armed robbery and had agreed to testify against Caire. Other charges against Tolliver and Jones were dismissed.
Bush said Caire also confessed to investigators and admitted to his part again in a letter to Judge Thomas Kliebert Jr., who noted that fact from the bench Monday.
“It was a good result for our client,” Hebert said after the plea.
Caire pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery, two counts of false imprisonment with a dangerous weapon, two counts of theft of something of value at $1,500 or more and four counts of theft of a firearm.
Caire, Jones and Tolliver were also arrested in an armed robbery on Newcastle Avenue in Baton Rouge that happened shortly before the one in Ascension. Bush said the plea agreement reached Monday in Ascension does not affect the charges in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Kliebert set sentencing in the Ascension case for 9 a.m. June 22 after a pre-sentence investigation.
He sentenced Jones to 35 years in prison and Tolliver to 30 years Friday without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence, court minutes show.
As part of the pre-sentence probe, Hebert said, he will remind Kliebert that Caire convinced Jones and Tolliver not to kill Charles Chase and his wife, Jennifer Chase.
Hebert said Caire had gone to look for the guns in Chase’s truck and came back inside to find Jones and Tolliver arguing about whether to kill the couple.
“ ‘Let’s get out of here,’ ” Hebert said his client told the men. “ ‘Y’all got everything you wanted.’ ”
Jennifer Chase, 25, said Monday she was happy the case was over and hoped it would bring some closure. The Chases said they are still struggling emotionally with the events of Dec. 24, 2012, when the couple was on a date night to see “The Hobbit” in Baton Rouge.
The Chases have a new home, but Jennifer Chase said she still has trouble sleeping at night.
“We never went back to our home after it happened,” Charles Chase said.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.