A jury was chosen Tuesday night in the case of a Florida man accused in the brutal 2015 slaying of a Highland Road couple in their 70s.

Opening statements at Frank Garcia's first-degree murder trial are set to begin Wednesday morning. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged in the killing of Denis "Bubbie" Duplantier, 71, and Suzanne "Suzy" Duplantier, 70.

Garcia's cousin, Ernesto Llerena Alonso, who did landscaping work for the Duplantiers and lived on other property they owned, faces the same murder counts and will later be tried separately.

The couple's strangled bodies were found Oct. 19, 2015, in the backseat of their red pickup at a Hammond gas station.

Authorities have said the Duplantiers were robbed and beaten in their Highland Road home, where they lived almost all of their 48 years of marriage, before they were kidnapped and killed.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

A safe inside the Duplantier home was found open, with cash missing, authorities have said. Blood was located in several rooms. Authorities believe Garcia, 53, of Hollywood, Florida, and Alonso, 48, entered the couple's home and beat them to get the information needed to open the safe.

A large amount of cash and a number of items believed stolen from the home, including jewelry, were found at Garcia’s residence in Florida, according to authorities.

Alonso's white pickup was captured on surveillance video as it followed the couple’s vehicle into the Petro truck stop in Hammond, authorities have said. Alonso’s truck was later discovered at Garcia's home in Florida.

State District Judge Tiffany Foxworth-Roberts is presiding over the case.


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