A convicted murderer sentenced to life in prison for the 1988 slaying of a father of two during a botched robbery in Baton Rouge walked out of prison just before Christmas after the governor commuted his sentence, making him eligible for parole.
David Martin Bacon, 53, had spent 27 years behind bars after an East Baton Rouge Parish jury convicted him of second-degree murder in the slaying of Leroy Thomas outside of Thomas' home in the Monticello subdivision on June 28, 1988.
Gov. John Bel Edwards commuted Bacon's life without parole sentence to a 99-year prison term in October based on a unanimous recommendation from the Louisiana Pardon-Parole Board, favorable reviews from prison staff and Bacon's 15 years of work as a prison trusty, said Richard Carbo, a spokesman for the governor.
The Pardon-Parole Board granted Bacon parole during a hearing at Dixon Correctional Institute on Dec. 19 and he was released later that same day.
The decision to release Bacon from prison came over the objection of Hillar Moore III, the East Baton Rouge district attorney, who said Thomas' widow was surprised and upset when told of Bacon's application for clemency. Moore said he sent a prosecutor to the Pardon-Parole Board's meetings to speak against the move.
Sandra Thomas, who witnessed her husband's murder and testified against Bacon at his 1989 trial, couldn't be reached for comment this week by The Advocate. Moore said his office has also tried unsuccessfully to contact Thomas — whose home in Monticello was hit by the August flood — to inform her of the governor's commutation and of Bacon's subsequent release on parole.
Bacon, who was 24 years old at the time of the killing, admitted during his 1989 trial to firing a blast from a sawed-off shotgun at Thomas after Bacon's stepfather, Barney Ray Guy, was wounded while trying to rob the family with a rifle. Bacon claimed he'd only fired after seeing his wounded stepfather and didn't intend to kill Thomas.
Bacon, Guy and a third co-conspirator named Jerry Williamson hatched their scheme to rob Thomas — a 34-year-old Exxon refinery worker and the father of two — after confusing Thomas' white Oldsmobile with a similar car driven by a reputed cocaine dealer, according to trial testimony and court documents. They plotted the robbery after spotting the car while driving home from watching a heavyweight boxing match, according to information presented at trial.
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Thomas' wife, Sandra, shot Guy in the stomach with a .38 caliber pistol after seeing her husband struggling with Guy, who'd come to their carport carrying a rifle, according to coverage of the trial reported at the time in The Advocate.
A separate jury convicted Guy, Bacon's stepfather, of attempted armed robbery for his role in Thomas' killing. During a hearing prior to sentencing, Guy attempted to claim responsibility for the shooting of Thomas, a claim dismissed by then-District Court Judge Bob Hester as talk of "a habitual offender and a liar," according to an account of the hearing in The Advocate.
Hester sentenced Guy to 99 years in prison, calling him "worthless" and a "cocaine-crazed fool." The judge said Guy had been arrested at least 60 times, carried 12 prior convictions and showed no remorse for the killing. Information about whether Guy remained in state prison wasn't available on Friday, a state holiday.
Williamson, who pleaded guilty to accessory to murder in the killing and testified against Bacon and Guy, was given a 12-year sentence.
Moore said he was disappointed that the victim's family weren't kept informed of the hearings and plans to meet with the Governor's Office and the Pardon-Parole Board to discuss their notification process.