Raymond Nelson IV mug

Raymond Nelson IV, via OPSO

One of four men charged with murdering a 21-year-old woman in Gert Town in 2017 to avenge an earlier shooting attack pleaded guilty Friday to the significantly reduced charge of obstruction of justice.

Raymond Nelson IV, 25, became the first person to be convicted in connection with the killing of Brayanta Ketchens. It wasn’t immediately clear whether his plea was part of a deal requiring him to testify against the other defendants. 

But Orleans Parish Criminal District Court records show he ensured himself a much lighter punishment than the one he had been facing.

He received a 10-year prison sentence Friday in return for his plea in the Ketchens case, as well as unrelated charges of illegal possession of stolen things and possessing a firearm despite a prior felony conviction.

Nelson would have faced mandatory life imprisonment if he had been convicted of second-degree murder in connection with Ketchens’ June 14, 2017, slaying.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office declined comment on Nelson’s plea, citing a policy against discussing cases that remain open.

Ketchens’ death became emblematic of the retaliatory violence that officials say helps keep New Orleans’ gun violence rate perennially high.

The night before she was killed, authorities allege, Ketchens’ boyfriend shot and wounded another man with whom she had argued near her home on Olive Street. The following day, several men working in concert barged into Ketchens’ home and fatally shot her in her bathtub.

In a last-ditch plea for help, Ketchens sent text messages to her boyfriend reading, “They in my house! Call the police!”

A crime camera belonging to the nonprofit ProjectNOLA network captured footage of men arriving and leaving Ketchens’ home at about the time she was killed.

That footage helped authorities identify the men who were ultimately charged in the case: Nelson, Jamal Horton, Michael Meyers and Jonathan Stone, the brother of the man allegedly wounded by Ketchens’ boyfriend, Devin Anderson.

Horton, Meyers and Jonathan Stone are tentatively scheduled to stand trial June 10.

Authorities also charged Anderson with the attempted murder of Stone’s brother, Dalton Stone. But prosecutors dropped the case against Anderson a few months later.

Dalton Stone was fatally shot Sept. 4, 2018, in the 3000 block of Broadway, in the Fontainebleau area. Prosecutors charged a man named Robert Lavigne with murder in Dalton Stone's killing. He is awaiting trial, but no date has been set.   

Police have never said whether they believe Dalton Stone’s slaying was linked to the Ketchens case.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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