A year after his nonunanimous murder conviction and life sentence in the 2015 stabbing and strangling of his girllfriend's convicted molester were thrown out, a Walker man pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter and obstruction of justice in exchange for a 42-year prison term.
Jace Crehan, 27, will receive credit for the six years he's already spent behind bars in what a previous judge called the vigilante-style slaying of Robert Noce Jr.
Brittany Monk, 24, pleaded guilty to manslaughter shortly before Crehan's 2017 second-degree murder trial and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. She is seeking reconsideration of that term. The maximum penalty for manslaughter is 40 years.
Monk was 17 and seven months pregnant with Crehan's child when she and Crehan broke into Noce's Zachary trailer the night of July 4, 2015, while he was sleeping. Noce was beaten, stabbed and strangled, then stuffed inside a 55-gallon plastic drum that was inside the trailer.
The current judge on the case said Noce's killing is "one of the most heinous" crimes he's dealt with during his brief three years on the 19th Judicial District Court bench.
"This is an absolute horror story," state District Judge Fred Crifasi said Monday shortly before sentencing Crehan.
Crifasi sentenced Crehan to consecutive terms of 35 years for manslaughter and seven years for obstruction of justice, a charge that prosecutors filed earlier Monday.
Prosecutor Darwin Miller told the judge that Noce, 47, was nearly decapitated. A belt was found around his neck, and his wrists and ankles were bound with neckties, he said. Crehan and Monk also flooded Noce's trailer.
Noce, who was a former boyfriend of Monk's mother and raised Monk for about a decade after her mother abandoned her, had been put on probation less than two weeks before his death after pleading "no contest" to molesting Monk as a child.
Noce denied abusing Monk.
Crehan was granted a new trial last summer, a few months after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed split-jury verdicts. An East Baton Rouge Parish jury had voted 11-1 to find him guilty of second-degree murder, which carried a mandatory term of life in prison.
Crehan tried to plead guilty to manslaughter before his trial, but prosecutors turned him down.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Crehan's plea and acceptance of responsibility adequately resolves the case.
"This defendant offered to accept responsibility and made an offer to the state which was acceptable. I believe the plea, factual basis and sentence is appropriate based on circumstances at this point in time," Moore said. "The factual basis and sentence encompasses not only the murder but also the obstruction of justice committed by both of these defendants."
One of Crehan's attorneys, Franz Borghardt, said in a statement that Crehan will now move forward with his life. Carson Marcantel also represents Crehan.
"Sometimes justice exists in the grey," Borghardt said. "From the beginning of this case, we have sought a resolution that balanced fairness and justice. We have achieved that resolution."
Crehan told detectives that the knife he used to stab Noce was retrieved from Noce’s kitchen by Monk, at Crehan’s direction. Crehan later led authorities to a retaining pond in Livingston Parish, where the knife was recovered by divers.
Monk testified at Crehan's trial that she sprayed Noce in the face with a man’s body spray while Crehan wrestled with him. She denied stabbing Noce but admitted punching him 10 to 15 times while Crehan held him down.