Jury selection will begin in Gretna this week in the trial of Darwin Bethune, a New Orleans man accused of killing a girlfriend’s ex-husband in the belief he could get his hands on a half-million-dollar insurance settlement.
Bethune, 28, is accused of shooting Joseph Anderson, 31, a sergeant in the U.S. Army who was home on leave, after Anderson dropped off his three children at his in-laws' Marrero home on Jan. 1, 2014.
Authorities say Bethune waited near the Ray Street home for hours and ambushed Anderson in the driving rain just after 9:20 p.m., shooting him once in the face and taking off with his car.
Anderson's body was found by a neighbor. A decorated soldier, he was a veteran of three tours of duty in the Middle East.
The Toyota 4Runner that Anderson was driving would be found abandoned the next morning. He still had his wallet on him, along with his credit cards and $20.
Part of a .40-caliber bullet was found in a flower bed near where he was killed, but a casing was never recovered.
Bethune is charged with second-degree murder, obstruction of justice, inciting a felony, unauthorized entry and identity theft. He will be tried before 24th Judicial District Court Judge Adrian Adams.
Denise Morgan-Anderson, Anderson's ex-wife, was visiting a friend in Georgia at the time of the killing. The two had been divorced for about a year, and she had begun dating Bethune.
Neighbors across the street said they had seen a man with a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head pacing back and forth next door to Anderson’s in-laws' house until about 9:15 p.m., when they went inside.
Bethune’s behavior with investigators raised eyebrows early.
He agreed to be interviewed at the Sheriff's Office, only to decide he wanted an attorney present. As an officer drove him back to Morgan-Anderson’s home, however, he asked if that made him look guilty.
Once they arrived, Bethune wouldn’t get out of the car for 45 minutes and “continued to talk about the case,” saying he wasn’t a murderer and had no reason to kill Anderson. He agreed again to waive his right to remain silent and they headed back to the station.
Bethune said his relationship to Morgan-Anderson was not exclusive and that he lived with his wife and children in New Orleans East and had another girlfriend, whom he said he was with until 6 p.m. the day Anderson was killed.
After 6, he said, he drove around the west bank with a friend getting high and looking to buy marijuana and couldn’t exactly account for where he was. However, license-plate recognition camera photos and cellphone records placed his car and phone close to Ray Street soon after 5 p.m.
Bethune said that was impossible and got upset when deputies mentioned the insurance policy and the fact that Anderson’s mother was the beneficiary.
Bethune took a lie-detector test and it showed deception in all questions related to the murder, authorities said.
His wife had told deputies he had a Glock, but it was not found during a search of the house, though a box for the gun was. Bethune told police it had been stolen.
Investigators also noticed the driver’s side floor mat in Bethune’s Infiniti was missing and there was a bottle of peroxide in the vehicle.
Meanwhile, investigators' report on the case says, officers interviewing Morgan-Anderson discovered she did not know Bethune was married and was living with his wife and children. She said he had talked about moving in with her but she had resisted that idea because Anderson was soon going to be home permanently and would have regular contact with their three children.
On Jan. 10, Jean-Luc Williams, the friend Bethune said he was driving around with on the night of the murder, was arrested on a traffic warrant in Lafourche Parish. He told investigators he had been working in Golden Meadow on Jan. 1, an alibi that held up when detectives checked with his employer and his cellphone records.
Six days later, investigators were notified that Bethune had applied for an expedited passport, saying he was going on a cruise. U.S. marshals picked up Bethune’s other girlfriend, Jasmine, at the passport office on Canal Street, and she told them Bethune had told her that authorities were trying to frame him for a murder.
She told them he had said that Morgan-Anderson, whom he identified as his cousin, had asked him to kill Anderson because she didn’t want him around anymore. She said he told her he had gathered all the necessary items to do it and chose Jan. 1 because he wanted “to start the year off with a bang,” but never did it.
She said he admitted to being in the area in the hours leading up to the murder and allowing his Infiniti to be used, even telling her he had cleaned blood from the car. She told the marshals he implied Williams may have done it.
On Feb. 6, investigators were notified that New Orleans police were investigating Bethune and Morgan-Anderson about the theft of $70,000 from a school where Morgan-Anderson was a payroll clerk. She said she had supplied Bethune with two checks and had been complicit in the fraud scheme but would cooperate in the investigation.
Bethune surrendered on Feb. 7 and was booked on second-degree murder. He remains in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center more than four years later.
The file on the case indicates authorities don’t think Morgan-Anderson knew anything about the killing of her ex-husband.