A 19-year-old woman admitted Monday that she helped kill her convicted molester two years ago in Zachary, agreeing to plead guilty to manslaughter and testify against her alleged co-conspirator and then-fiancé.
Brittany Monk and Jace Crehan, a young couple expecting a child, "concocted a scheme" to kill 47-year-old Robert Noce Jr. at his home, East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Darwin Miller said in detailing the plea deal. After their arrest, Crehan sold a false tale about what happened to the news media to build sympathy with the public, the prosecutor told District Judge Tony Marabella.
Soon after Noce's body was found stuffed inside a 55-gallon plastic drum inside his Zachary trailer, Monk and Crehan, 23, were booked with second-degree murder. Crehan still faces that charge — and a July 24 trial date — but with her guilty plea Monk reduced her prison exposure from a potential life sentence to up to 40 years.
"There is no sentencing agreement in this case," Miller stressed to the judge as Monk, wearing green East Baton Rouge Parish Prison garb and flanked by court-appointed lawyers Lindsay Blouin and Joshua Newville, listened quietly. Her sentencing date was set for Oct. 19.
One of Crehan's attorneys, Franz Borghardt, said in a telephone interview that this client has also offered through his legal team to plead guilty to manslaughter and is awaiting a response from the District Attorney's Office. Manslaughter would be a "fair and reasonable resolution," Borghardt added.
"Any offer from Jace Crehan regarding a resolution in this case will be addressed in open court prior to his next scheduled court appearance," East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said later.
Miller also stressed in court Monday that it was Monk, through her attorneys, who offered to plead guilty to the lesser charge.
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Noce, a former boyfriend of Monk's mother, was found dead at his trailer on July 5, 2015, less than two weeks after he entered a "no contest" plea to carnal knowledge of a juvenile involving Monk. He was put on active supervised probation for five years.
A "no contest" plea carries the same weight as a guilty plea in criminal court, but cannot be used against a defendant in civil court.
Monk was 17 and seven months pregnant with Crehan's child at the time of their arrests. She delivered a baby boy four days after pleading not guilty in the case in September 2015. Crehan entered the same plea.
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Crehan told sheriff's detectives that Monk was with him when he stabbed Noce a half-dozen times, strangled him with a belt and pulled him inside the plastic container. Monk's DNA was discovered on rubber gloves found inside the container. Crehan told authorities he tossed the knife into a Denham Springs pond.
In handwritten letters and phone calls to The Advocate, Crehan compared his actions to those of Gary Plauche, who avoided prison time after killing his son's accused molester, karate teacher Jeff Doucet, at the Baton Rouge airport in 1984. A local television station captured the assassination on camera.
Miller, in a lengthy and detailed statement that he read outloud in court on Monday, said that Crehan's references to Plauche were made "to cover the heinousness of what was done" to Noce.
East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors used a subpoena to obtain Crehan's letters from the newspaper, which had been detailed in a news article.
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Crehan also told the newspaper that Monk suffered increasingly violent night terrors after Noce's June 22 plea deal. Miller likewise said that particular statement wasn't true.
Crehan further told The Advocate that he and Monk were displeased with Noce's no contest plea and sentence of probation. But Miller said Crehan's statements that Monk was not in agreement with Noce's plea, that she was not a party to those negotiations, and the statement that the DA's Office and state district court had failed her were all "fabrications."
In reality, the prosecutor said, Monk wanted Noce's case dismissed so she could move forward.
Crehan's allegations that Monk perceived Noce as a physical threat from the time he was arrested until after his plea also were lies, Miller said.
Crehan's and Monk's scheme to travel to Noce's trailer and kill him involved the use of walkie-talkie compact radio transmitters and receivers used for surveillance purposes, and surgical rubber gloves to cover their tracks, the prosecutor said.
Miller gave the following account of what happened: Crehan and Monk broke into the trailer between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., and Crehan attacked Noce while he was asleep in his bed. Crehan and Noce eventually fell from the bed, with Crehan beating and choking him. Monk "joined in the melee" and also beat Noce. Crehan told The Advocate that Noce tried to attack Monk during the struggle, which was a lie. Monk eventually went to the kitchen and retrieved a knife that Crehan used to repeatedly stab Noce, severing his jaw in the process. A necktie and belt were used to strangle Noce and tie him up before he was pulled into the plastic barrel. The faucets were turned on and the drains clogged to flood the trailer in an effort to destroy any evidence left behind.
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Miller said the gloves Monk wore were discarded in the barrel, and those gloves contained her DNA. The DNA discovery led to her arrest, he noted.
After the gruesome slaying, the prosecutor said, Monk and Crehan got rid of their clothes and went to a July 4th barbeque "as if nothing had happened."
Following Miller's presentation, Marabella asked Monk if what the prosecutor said was true. She replied in a soft voice, "Yes, sir."
Monk's attorneys, Blouin and Newville, declined comment after the court proceeding.