OPELOUSAS — Jurors on Monday viewed a gruesome crime scene video showing the body of an Opelousas woman stabbed to death 27 years ago in a cold case brought to trial after an apparent match was made by new DNA technology.
The video — taken by former St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office Detective Rene Speyrer at the crime scene on the corner of Railroad and Church streets in Opelousas — showed the partially clad victim, Brenda Dupont, lying on her back next to an overturned, blood-soaked mattress inside her tiny apartment.
Several bloody handprints and sprinkles of blood could be seen on the walls behind and adjacent to Dupont’s bed.
Dupont’s slaying, said prosecutor Donald Richard in his opening statement before state District Judge Alonzo Harris, remained unsolved until 2012, when enhanced DNA technology linked Joenell Rubin, now 45, to the crime.
Richard said Dupont, who was stabbed numerous times, was also raped before she was murdered sometime after dark on March 21, 1988.
As the initial investigation into Dupont’s murder progressed, Richard said, evidence collected at the crime scene included semen recovered from the victim’s body and a fingerprint found inside her apartment.
“The case languished, and then (in 2012) the rape kit reveals a DNA profile and there’s a hit. They (investigators) go and get another sample to make sure there’s no mistake and it’s (Rubin’s) DNA inside the body of Brenda Dupont,” Richard said.
Rubin was indicted on July 19, 2012, on first-degree murder in the case, but not for rape.
Richard did not indicate whether the District Attorney’s Office will seek the death penalty.
In March 2012, then-Opelousas Police Chief Perry Gallow said at a news conference announcing Rubin’s arrest that the accused was in the Opelousas City Jail on a charge of domestic violence.
On Monday, defense attorney Roy Richard said in his opening statement that the DNA found on Dupont doesn’t mean Rubin murdered or raped her.
Also, Richard said, the investigative file originally compiled by detectives has been lost.
“They (detectives) can’t tell you what they did, because (the file) is gone,” said Richard.
The defense attorney also said that bite marks detected on Dupont’s body during her autopsy show that someone other than Rubin committed the crime.
Linda Nicholas, the sister of Brenda Dupont, testified that the night before Dupont’s body was discovered Rubin had taken out a knife in her house.
“We had a confrontation about the knife, and I said I did not want a knife in my house,” said Nicholas, who was living just a few yards from Dupont at the time.
The next day, Nicholas said, she called police to open the door of her sister’s apartment when there was no response after Nicholas knocked on the door.
Dawn Young, who was a laboratory director for the North Louisiana DNA Crime Lab in 1988, testified the autopsy revealed Dupont’s killer inflicted multiple stab wounds and contusions.
The incisions, Young testified, included defensive wounds on the front and back of Dupont’s hands in addition to other stab wounds on the upper arms, chest, head and both sides of the face.
Young also testified that a bite mark on Dupont’s body was identified on her body at the autopsy. However, Young noted that she and another forensic pathologist couldn’t determine whether a rape had occurred.
Rubin’s trial was originally scheduled to begin July 22, but opening statements and testimony were postponed by Harris until arguments could be heard before the Third Circuit Court of Appeal regarding whether a 1989 letter written by forensic specialist Bill Lagattuta was admissible as trial evidence.
According to a Nov. 6 ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the letter in which Lagattuta claims a suspect other than Rubin inflicted the bite wound is inadmissible at the trial.
The Supreme Court ruling also indicates that former Detective Jude Victorian, at a July 17 evidentiary hearing, testified that Lagattuta said during an interview with Victorian that it could not be determined who caused the bite marks on Dupont.