An East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy told a jury Wednesday about his chance encounter with William Bottoms Jr., his girlfriend and two Baker men in 2017 just hours before the two men were found shot to death inside a car on a rural road in northern St. Helena Parish.

Capt. Jimmy Santangelo testified at Bottoms’ second-degree murder trial that he was on routine patrol on La. 64 around 1 a.m. on June 1, 2017, when he spotted on the side of the road a car that had run out of gas.

The Chevrolet Aveo’s occupants were Bottoms, 29, of Greenwell Springs; his girlfriend at the time, Megan Marie Gaylord, 29 and also of Greenwell Springs; and Dedrick Dewayne Williams, 23, and Mohamed Sead Hussain, 29, both of Baker. Santangelo’s encounter with them was captured on his vehicle’s dash cam video.

Santangelo said he offered to take one of the stranded motorists to a gas station, and Bottoms accepted. But when Santangelo said he would have to pat down whoever rode with him, Bottoms “recanted … and volunteered Hussain.” Hussain, the car’s registered owner, had a knife on him, which he left behind before getting into Santangelo’s sheriff’s vehicle for the short trip to and from the gas station.

The dash cam video shows Hussain and Williams in the same clothes they were wearing when their bodies were discovered some 12 hours later in the back seat of the Aveo just off La. 37 in Grangeville.

The jury also watched surveillance video from a convenience store on La. 37 in Clinton that showed the Aveo heading in the direction of the dump site at 6:20 a.m. on June 1, 2017, followed closely by a white Honda Fit, which prosecutors say belonged to Bottoms’ mother. Twenty-two minutes later, the Fit passes the store in the opposite direction.

Prosecutor Dana Cummings told the jury that Bottoms shot Williams and Hussain in Hussain’s car, which was being driven by Gaylord on Plank Road between Baker and Zachary. Gaylord told investigators she, Bottoms, Williams and Hussain had used drugs, when Bottoms — her front seat passenger — became paranoid and shot the men, who were sitting in the back seat, the arrest report says.

Gaylord then drove the car to Bottoms’ home, where he retrieved bleach to destroy fingerprints and evidence, the report says. Bottoms also retrieved a bed sheet later used to cover the bodies.

At the home, Bottoms had his mother follow them to the dump site in Grangeville, Cummings said, adding she believes Bottoms’ mother, who is expected to testify, knew nothing of the murders at the time.

DEMCO lineman Kaleb Lee testified that he made the gruesome discovery of the bodies, which were covered by a tan bed sheet in the back of the abandoned Aveo.

The jury saw photographs of the bodies once the sheet was removed. Both men had been shot in the head. Cummings said Williams was shot twice, and Hussain was shot three times.

Williams, seated in the right rear passenger seat, was slumped over face down. An open knife was in his lap. Hussain, who was seated behind the driver’s seat, was slumped over to the side with his head resting on Williams’ back. Glass from the missing rear passenger window was scattered on Hussain’s lap, the back seat and on the floor in front of him.

In her opening statement Wednesday to the jury, prosecutor Cummings said she dropped Gaylord's charge because she is the sole witness to the crime.

"I dismissed it. I wanted a witness." Cummings said to the 12 jurors and two alternates.

Jarvis Antwine, who represents Bottoms, told the jurors that Gaylord has plenty of motive to testify.

"Who is reaping the benefits of having their charges dismissed? Megan!" he said.

"They made a deal with the devil," Antwine argued, adding that Bottoms' heavily tattooed face "makes it easy to point the finger at him" because he is "the one that looks like the devil."

"That's unfair. That's unfair," he said.

Bottoms faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

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