78 homicides in 2015: Here is a list of where and who _lowres

Photo taken from Facebook -- Corrin Rayford

One of two Texas women found fatally shot in a car in Baton Rouge in 2015 was to be a key witness in a human trafficking case in Dallas — a case that was dropped after her death.

Now, an attorney for the man charged with the murders is suggesting that it might have been a contract killing committed by someone else, although prosecutors say there's no evidence to support the claim.  

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III confirmed that Corrine Rayford was a witness in a human trafficking case at the time of her death. But he stressed that no information has surfaced to support attorney Margaret Lagattuta's assertion that the killing of Rayford and Brandi Gilbert might have been linked to the trafficking case.

Lagattuta represents Jonathan Robertson, 28, of Baton Rouge, who was indicted last year on second-degree murder in the deaths of Rayford, of Grapevine, and Gilbert, of Plano. Both women were 23.

Lagattuta told state District Judge Beau Higginbotham during a status hearing in the murder case Thursday that Rayford was to be a witness in a human trafficking case in Dallas when she "turned up dead" on Boone Avenue in Baton Rouge on June 19, 2015.

Rayford and Gilbert both were shot in the head, the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office has said.

"It's entirely possible that it was a hit," Lagattuta said outside the courtroom after the hearing.

Reached later by phone, Moore said the district attorney's office has "no evidence to support such an allegation." He added that his office has no information from any law enforcement agency that the killing of Rayford and Gilbert "was any kind of a hit."

Rayford had previous arrests for prostitution and human trafficking, according to published news articles. A Feb. 4, 2014, article in The Dallas Morning News described her as a "convicted prostitute" who was arrested at a motel with a 13-year-old runaway who police said was being sold for sex on Facebook.

The human trafficking case in which Rayford was a witness was dismissed after her death.

Robertson's April 2017 murder indictment also charged him with armed robbery and attempted armed robbery, both of which allegedly occurred July 1, 2015 — just 12 days after the bodies of Rayford and Gilbert were discovered.

Robertson and the victim struggled in the attempted armed robbery, and the victim took Robertson's gun from him, according to authorities. That gun was traced back to the double murder, police have said.

DNA proved vital to the investigation, authorities said.

Higginbotham has ruled that the armed robbery and attempted armed robbery must be severed, or tried separately, from the murder counts. Prosecutors are appealing that ruling. A state appellate court sided with the judge in June. The matter is now before the Louisiana Supreme Court.

  


Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.