A Lafayette woman accused of killing her 2-month-old daughter is requesting bail after spending more than a month in jail without action on her case. Public defenders say they're too busy to help, particularly because she'll need specialized assistance if prosecutors seek the death penalty.
Ayana Ladelle, 23, and Dwayne E. Richard, 24, of Mandeville, were arrested April 1 on one count each of first-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to juveniles.
The infant girl and her twin brother were taken to a hospital for severe injuries after an investigation by the state Department of Child and Family Services at a home in the 200 block of Jeffery Drive. The girl died from her injuries March 30, Lafayette police spokeswoman Cpl. Bridgette Dugas said.
After being released from the hospital, the infant's brother was placed with a family, Dugas said.
Ladelle has been held in the Lafayette Parish Jail since April 1 without bail on the first-degree murder count. Her bail for the cruelty to juveniles count is set at $250,000.
Ladelle has not been formally charged and has not made a court appearance to date, according to online court documents.
The state public defender and 15th Judicial District public defender filed a joint notice Monday declaring Ladelle indigent, or impoverished, and unable to afford a lawyer. Both offices also said in the filing they’re unable to represent Ladelle because of a “combination of existing workload and a lack of adequate resources.”
A public defender is mandated for defendants unable to afford an attorney, but Ladelle’s case requires specialized representation because the first-degree murder count carries the potential for the death penalty.
Ladelle is on a waiting list for representation.
In the filing, the public defenders submitted a list of 17 lead trial attorneys and five associate trial attorneys the court may assign to represent Ladelle. The list includes attorneys at capital assistance nonprofits, private practice lawyers and public defenders from the 24th Judicial District in Jefferson Parish.
In the meantime, attorneys from the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center have been assigned to represent Ladelle in a limited capacity to protect her time-sensitive rights and to minimize prejudice, according to the filings. The attorneys filed a motion Thursday asking that Ladelle be granted a bail hearing.
No motions have been filed in Richard’s case. He remains in the Lafayette Parish Jail.
Lafayette Parish court records show Richard has a history of abuse starting in February 2016, when he was charged with domestic abuse child endangerment.
The charge was reduced in a plea deal to misdemeanor domestic abuse battery. Richard pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, including two days without the benefit of probation or parole.
In November 2017, Richard again was arrested and charged with second-offense domestic abuse battery, second-offense domestic abuse battery with a child present and resisting arrest, court records show. Richard again entered a plea deal, pleading guilty to two counts of second-offense domestic abuse battery.
He was sentenced to eight months on each count to run concurrently and with credit for time served. Jail records show he was jailed in Lafayette Parish Correctional Center from Nov. 26, 2017, until May 30, 2018.
Acadiana Advocate staff reporter Claire Taylor contributed to this report.