Mistrial declared in Opelousas fatal hit-and-run crash case _lowres

Deonta Ware

Updated, 11:05 a.m.:

A St. Landry Parish judge declared a mistrial Friday morning in the murder trial of Deonta Ware.

Ware, 24, was on trial in the 2010 death of Tyrell Jenkins, who was on a bicycle when he was run over. Prosecutors said Ware ran over Jenkins because of a previous alleged altercation between Jenkins and Ware’s grandmother.

Jenkins’ body was found next to ditch on the Lewisburg Highway south of Opelousas on March 29, 2010.

There was no indication Monday if or when Ware would face trial again.

Original story:

A former Opelousas police detective testified on Thursday that investigators apparently lost all information from the original case files of a man now on trial for a fatal hit-and-run crash that occurred six years ago — including his taped interview with detectives.

Donald Young, who is now retired, said he does not know what happened to a 2012 taped conversation that he and another detective had with Deonta Ware, 24, who is accused of intentionally running over and killing Tyrell Jenkins, then 17, on the Lewisburg highway south of Opelousas.

Young’s testimony followed opening statements to jurors by prosecutor Donald Richard and defense attorney Roy Richard. Young said the case was assigned to another detective after he retired, and there’s no paperwork to show what happened to it after he left.

Donald Richard conceded in the prosecution’s opening statement that the Opelousas Police Department’s case file is missing. “There was a case file prepared, but it can no longer be found,” the prosecutor said.

Jenkins died on March 29, 2010, after he was struck while riding a bicycle on the highway. His body was recovered next to a ditch.

The prosecutor said Ware admitted in a 2014 telephone conversation with a relative that he killed Jenkins to avenge a previous encounter Jenkins had with Ware’s grandmother.

Later in 2014, a pair of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola inmates told authorities in Jefferson and St. Landry parishes that Ware also had told them he had killed Jenkins intentionally with a truck.

Ware was indicted in July 2014 on second-degree murder in Jenkins’ death, according to court documents.

Ware’s defense lawyer, Roy Richard, questioned in his opening statement why Ware was charged with murdering Jenkins, given the lack of evidence implicating him in a crime.

“There’s no proof of these (Ware’s) phone conversations, no phone records by police of these conversations, no records of an investigation. There’s a lost murder file, no crime scene, no vehicle, nothing else other than let’s flip this on (Ware) and charge him,” Roy Richard said.

He said further that there is no evidence supporting a specific intent by Ware to murder Jenkins, other than hearsay and statements from state prisoners who Richard said “are people just trying to earn credit” for their time served.

Young said under direct examination from prosecutor Donald Richard that he went with another officer, Darren Zachary, to interview Ware in 2012, which Zachary taped using an iPhone.

Later, during cross examination from defense attorney Roy Richard, Young said he does not know what happened to the recorded statements or any other information that officers initially compiled in connection Jenkins’ death.

Young testified that during the recorded interview, Ware provided three conflicting accounts of how Jenkins was struck and killed. In two of Ware’s versions, Young said, Ware claimed he was a pedestrian on a street leading into the highway and spotted a Dodge pickup speed away from the area where Jenkins was struck.

Young said Ware also told detectives that he was a backseat passenger in a Chevrolet Caprice sedan that struck a glancing blow on bicyclist riding on the side of the highway. He said Ware told them the car went into a ditch, climbed out of an embankment and continued on.

Young said Ware was advised of his rights before taping the conversation and that Ware initially “spoke willingly” until Ware decided to stop talking after telling Young and Zachary that he could be facing a murder charge.

Since the taping, Young said any trace of Ware’s interview has been lost. “There was a file on the case, but I had not read it. What was said (on the tape) is what I can recall,” Young said.

Police Officer Loretta Etienne, who is now the evidence custodian with the Opelousas Police Department, testified that there is still a box of physical evidence in connection with Jenkins’ death.

Etienne did not specify what physical evidence still remains in police custody in relation to Jenkins’ death.