The girlfriend of the teen accused of killing a woman in Mid-City during a botched robbery late Wednesday is now facing a count of manslaughter, according to New Orleans police.
Byrielle Hebert’s manslaughter arrest Friday comes after police had initially booked her only with illegal possession of a stolen auto, following her alleged admission that she was in a getaway vehicle when Emanuel Pipkins, 17, fatally shot Zelda Townsend, 63.
Pipkins also is accused of shooting Danny Townsend during an exchange of gunfire that left the suspect wounded as well, police previously said. Police have booked Pipkins on a count of second-degree murder, which carries a life sentence if he's convicted.
As her husband stood in the way of a teenager who had broken into their car Wednesday night in Mid-City, Zelda Townsend walked up and handed h…
Though Hebert, 18, did not pull the trigger on the gun that killed Zelda Townsend, police are booking her with manslaughter under the theory that she was a party to a felony – simple burglary of a vehicle – that resulted in a killing.
Manslaughter convictions can carry up to 40 years but call for no minimum punishment.
Records filed in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court late Thursday outline the final moments of Zelda Townsend’s life and the trail which led investigators to arrest Pipkins and Hebert.
According to records, Townsend’s husband – identified by relatives as Danny Townsend – told police that the couple heard the alarm on their car sound about 10 p.m. Wednesday in the 2700 block of Cleveland Avenue.
The Townsends went outside to check on their car and spotted a teenager in the back of the car.
As the burglar saw Danny Townsend coming toward him, he tried to bail out of the vehicle, police said. But Townsend impeded the path, and he was given a pistol by his wife, who worked as a security guard.
Just then, a gray Acura sedan drove up, and a voice from inside that car screamed, “Just shoot him! Just shoot him!” Police do not say to whom that voice belonged.
The teen in the Townsends’ vehicle then pulled out a 9mm handgun and fired it multiple times, police said.
Danny Townsend, 54, shot back to protect his wife and himself, but a bullet from the burglar struck his arm and caused him to fall.
Zelda Townsend was hit in the head, police said.
Both Townsends went to University Medical Center, where Zelda was pronounced dead.
The burglar fled.
Investigators zeroed in on Pipkins as a suspect when he also arrived at University Medical Center and had a bullet wound to the back. Hebert and his legal guardian — an aunt — accompanied him.
Police said he claimed he had been shot somewhere in New Orleans East, miles from Cleveland Avenue. Yet police also questioned Hebert and the aunt.
Hebert allegedly admitted to having been in a stolen Acura sedan that was seen on Cleveland at the time of the shooting. Police recovered the sedan in Treme, at North Miro and St. Philip streets, down the road from where Pipkins’ aunt lives.
As for the aunt, she allegedly told police that Pipkins and Hebert had been in a gray Acura sedan less than two hours before Zelda Townsend was killed.
Police suggest that the statements from Hebert and the aunt made them disbelieve Pipkins’ story. They also alleged that an unidentified witness said Pipkins was “a vehicle burglar” who had gone to the 2700 block of Cleveland hoping to break into cars.
The witness described seeing the gun battle between Pipkins and Danny Townsend.
Pipkins was in jail by Thursday morning. Police said they raided the aunt’s home and discovered a 9mm pistol hidden in an air conditioner duct. Investigators confiscated the weapon but stopped short of calling it the gun which was used to murder Zelda Townsend.
At first, police booked Hebert with illegal possession of a stolen auto, meaning she was not accused of having a hand in the shooting. She was released on a $2,500 recognizance bond on Thursday.
Yet Friday night, investigators upgraded the counts against Hebert, tacking on manslaughter, simple burglary and conspiracy to commit simple burglary, police said in a statement.
Note: This post was updated after it was first published to attribute information of Hebert's manslaughter to the police. Police confirmed an initial Advocate report about the arrest which cited multiple, unidentified law enforcement sources.