A 20-year-old Baker man accused in the fatal September shooting of LSU basketball player Wayde Sims had his bail reduced significantly Monday, but he’ll remain behind bars.
State District Judge Don Johnson lowered Dyteon Simpson’s bail from $350,000 to $149,000 solely to allow him to take part in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison programs that aren't available to inmates with bails greater than $150,000.
If someone comes forward in an attempt to post Simpson's new bail amount, Johnson said, another hearing would be held and evidence would be presented.
Following a hearing Monday, Johnson said it is his preliminary opinion that the weight of the evidence against allowing Simpson to be released on bail is significant. During the hearing, a Baton Rouge Police homicide detective testified that photographs were retrieved from Simpson’s cellphone showing him holding firearms with extended magazines. Another photo shows him pointing a gun into the camera.
Prosecutor Jermaine Guillory argued to the judge that the safety of the community is a particular concern.
Simpson, who is charged with second-degree murder, had filed two bond reduction requests and sent a letter to Johnson saying he is remorseful and pleading for a lower bond.
Simpson is accused of shooting Sims, 20, in the face on Sept. 28 after Sims intervened in a fistfight to defend a friend outside a fraternity party just off the Southern University campus.
DNA evidence retrieved from a pair of glasses found on the scene matches a DNA sample that Simpson gave investigators, authorities said. The glasses were knocked off the shooter’s face during the fight, according to witness statements contained in an arrest report.
Simpson, who has pleaded not guilty, confessed to punching Sims’ friend and then intentionally shooting Sims, police have said. Simpson faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged.
Simpson, who has an infant son, has said his family needs him. Margaret Lagattuta, one of Simpson’s court-appointed attorneys, said the bail reduction will allow him to take part in parenting, spiritual and other programs at the prison.
Joseph “AJ” Ford, pastor of Higher Grounds International Worship Center in Plaquemine, testified Monday that he has known Simpson since he was a boy and said Simpson came to live with his family when he was 15 or 16.
“Meek little fellow. Not violent at all,” Ford said while being questioned by Lagattuta. “Dyteon is a good kid.”
Ford’s wife, Shevelle Ford, also a pastor at the church, said she considers Simpson one of her children. He was a typical kid who had trouble in school because he had an attention deficit disorder, but went on to complete the Louisiana National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program, she noted.
The program’s mission is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16- to 18-year-olds by providing them with the values, life skills, education and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens.
Simpson’s stepsister, Donna Hinyard, testified Monday that her stepfather adopted Simpson.
Logan Collins, a Baton Rouge Police homicide detective, testified Simpson was arrested in Sims’ killing while riding in the front passenger seat of his girlfriend’s car. A 9 mm pistol found under that seat matches a bullet recovered from Sims’ body and a shell casing recovered from the shooting scene on Harding Boulevard.
Collins said Sims was shot in the chin, and the bullet lodged in his spinal cord.
Collins, who interviewed Simpson after his arrest, said Simpson initially told him he was at home at the time of the shooting. Simpson then said he had attended a concert near the shooting but went home afterward. Simpson finally told the detective he was at the shooting, Collins said.
Sims starred at University High. His father, Wayne Sims, played basketball for LSU under then-Coach Dale Brown in the late 1980s.
What Johnson did Monday with Simpson’s bail is not unprecedented. Several years ago, one of his former 19th Judicial District Court colleagues — Tony Marabella — slashed from $400,000 to $149,000 the bail of a Walker woman accused in the 2015 slaying of her convicted molester. Marabella did so to allow her to get medical treatment and to take advantage of certain Parish Prison programs not available to someone with such a high bail.
The woman, Brittany Monk, was 17 and seven months pregnant with her boyfriend’s child when Robert Noce Jr. was found strangled, stabbed and stuffed inside a 55-gallon container in his Zachary trailer. Monk eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Her boyfriend, Jace Crehan, 25, is serving a life sentence on a second-degree murder conviction.