Suspect sought in attempted armed robbery of Baton Rouge motel in July _lowres

Jonathan Robertson

A convicted felon accused of fatally shooting two Texas women in Baton Rouge in 2015 won't go on trial until March due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and issues related to it.

Jonathan Robertson, 30, was scheduled to stand trial this week on second-degree murder counts in the slaying of Brandi Gilbert, of Plano, Texas, and Corrine Rayford, of Grapevine, Texas, but the trial was postponed Monday until March 15

The victims, both 23, were shot in the head and found in a parked car on Boone Avenue on June 19, 2015.

Robertson, of Baton Rouge, was convicted last September of armed robbery of a Cracker Barrel on Jefferson Highway and attempted armed robbery of a Comfort Inn security guard off College Drive in incidents that occurred two hours apart on July 1, 2015 — less than two weeks after the killings.

He was sentenced to 75 years in prison in December.

The pistol used in the hotel parking lot incident was traced back to the double-homicide. The guard disarmed Robertson.

Robertson's armed robbery conviction, which resulted in 50 years of his 75-year sentence, was not unanimous. His attempted armed robbery conviction was by a 12-0 vote and led to the remaining 25 years of his sentence.

In April, while Robertson's convictions and sentence were on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a New Orleans case that juries must be unanimous to convict criminal defendants -- meaning Robertson will have to be tried again on the armed robbery count, or the charge will have to be resolved.

Shortly after the high court's decision, the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office petitioned to have Robertson classified as a habitual offender -- potentially exposing him to a greater penalty -- and resentenced on the attempted armed robbery conviction.

Robertson, who was convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 2008 and simple robbery in 2010, now could face a prison term of 24 years to 99 years under Louisiana's habitual offender sentencing guidelines.

The habitual offender hearing also is set for March 15, said Robertson's attorney, Margaret Lagattuta.

She also said Tuesday that an offer from prosecutors for him to plead guilty to manslaughter in the 2015 double homicide remains on the table.

Lagattuta said she has not been allowed to have an in-person meeting with Robertson at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola since March when the pandemic hit the state, making it impossible to prepare for his second-degree murder trial or the habitual offender hearing.

Lagattuta and prosecutor Stuart Theriot had jointly asked earlier this month that the trial be delayed.

A second-degree murder conviction would subject Robertson to a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Manslaughter carries up to 40 years in prison.

State District Judge Beau Higginbotham is presiding over the case.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.