A Livingston Parish man was sentenced Monday to life in prison for the 2018 drug-fueled murder of Maurepas teenager Emily Rodgers.

John Cowart, 37, was convicted of second-degree murder at trial in October, and faced a mandatory life sentence, which Judge William Burris imposed Monday in 21st Judicial District court.

The jury in Cowart's case had deliberated roughly an hour before finding Cowart had killed Rodgers, 18, though the trial did not so much center around whether Cowart had killed her as whether he intended to do so.

Through witness testimony, evidence and Cowart's initial police interviews, the state showed that the defendant initially denied any knowledge of Rodgers' whereabouts in early February 2018 when she was reported missing. Several days later, however, he led investigators to a wooded area off Catfish Landing Road in Maurepas where he had dumped her body after bludgeoning her to death.

He and his defense had claimed Cowart met Rodgers the night she died and had been "messing around" sexually in a friend's bedroom when Rodgers placed a zip tie around her own neck and began choking.

Cowart said he panicked when she stopped breathing, so he put her in the trunk of his car, used jumper cables to strangle her and a hammer to hit her in the head. He said he'd used methamphetamine several times that night, and so had Rodgers.

The state, however, had said there was no evidence of a zip tie around Rodger's neck nor at any of the potential crime scenes they examined, and a forensic pathologist said it's unlikely an object like a zip tie could've killed Rodgers.

East Baton Rouge Parish forensic pathologist Jimmy Smith, who conducted the autopsy on Rodgers, said the injuries that caused the girl's death were more in line with the use of a blunt force object like a household hammer.

Two other people were charged in Rodgers' death. Justin Scivicque, the man whose house Rodgers and Cowart were at, is accused of obstruction of justice for allegedly helping Cowart burn evidence. Scivicque testified against Cowart at trial.

Derek Williford, a man Cowart pointed to as having helped him dump Rodgers' body, also faced charges of accessory after the fact to murder and obstruction of justice. Court records show he pleaded no contest in March and was sentenced to one year in prison on each count.

Email Emma Kennedy at ekennedy@theadvocate.com.