October was a busy month for your Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office, from National Night Out at the start of the month and our observance, throughout the month, of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. My staff, assistant district attorneys and I enjoyed visiting with citizens around the parish, and I thank the citizens in return for their voiced support and encouragement given to us of our efforts.
The month saw a welcome addition to our staff. I had the pleasure of swearing in a new Assistant District Attorney, Hilary Hileman. Hilary is a native of Dallas, and graduate of Texas Woman’s University and Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. She comes to us from the Caddo Parish Public Defender’s office and private practice. She also previously worked at Legal Services of North Louisiana. She will prosecute in the court of veteran Caddo Parish Judge Mike Pitman, who has switched sections with Judge Chris Victory, who now goes to the civil law bench. Welcome aboard Hilary! And welcome back Judge Pitman to criminal law.
One of our staffers was the proud recipient of a prestigious 2023 Trey Hutchison Award. The October 26 ceremony at which Investigator Jackie Winston was honored was part of the Trey Hutchison Memorial Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Symposium and Awards Luncheon in the LSUS University Center Ballroom. It was among events in Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The banquet honored the namesake of the award, Bossier City Police Officer Trey Hutchison, killed in the line of duty in August 2004 as he responded to a domestic violence call.
Notable October events for our office included the Caddo Parish Grand Jury returning eight indictments October 26:
* Brandon Batiste, 29, of Shreveport, was charged with second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. These indictments were in connection with the shooting death of John Henry Ruffin Jr., 41, and the wounding of another man outside a downtown Shreveport nightclub July 15.
Batiste also was indicted on two counts of aggravated battery, five counts of aggravated criminal property damage and illegal carrying of weapons, also for the events of July 15.
* Steven Darnell Davis, 46, of Shreveport, was charged with second-degree murder, four counts of attempted second-degree murder, possession of a firearm or carrying of a concealed weapon by a convicted felon and carrying of a firearm on school property. He was charged with the August 4 slaying of Bre’Anna Hall, who was shot multiple times while driving in the 1900 block of San Jacinto Street.
* Kenavion Baker, 26, of Greenwood, was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the July 5 slaying of Terry Morris. Morris, 20, was found in the trunk of a car involved in a police chase that ended in San Augustine County, Texas. The indictment also charged Baker with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and armed robbery by use of a firearm. Baker also was indicted for aggravated assault with a firearm and theft of a motor vehicle in connection with the events that day.
Three men also were indicted in connection with crimes of a sexual nature.
* Demetrius Washington, 38, of Shreveport, was charged with first-degree rape, indecent behavior with a juvenile and sexual battery.
* Calvin Johnson, 29, of Shreveport, was charged with first-degree rape.
* Rodney Lowery, 59, of West Monroe, was charged with first-degree rape and two counts of sexual battery.
Due to the nature of the charges, the indictments for Washington, Johnson and Lowery were filed under seal, with no further details available.
One high-profile case pursued by our office involved a Shreveport teen who took part in a mass shooting that began at Tinseltown movie theater two years ago that ended on the corner of Youree Drive and Bert Kouns with a homicide and numerous cars shot by bullets. Ja’shun Smith, now 18, was found guilty of second-degree murder and numerous associated crimes October 25, in Caddo District Court. He was found guilty as charged of 13 counts by the four-man, eight-woman jury in District Judge John D. Mosely Jr.’s court. The jurors deliberated just under two hours.
Smith faces a mandatory life term in prison for the slaying of 13-year-old Kelvontae Daigre when he returns for sentencing November 28, 2023. The other guilty verdicts were for eight counts of attempted second-degree murder and four counts of aggravated criminal property damage.
The jurors heard from more than 25 witnesses and were presented with more than 200 pieces of evidence.
Around 10:30 p.m. September 4, 2021, Smith was driving a grey Kia Optima that had just left Tinseltown after a shooting in the theater parking lot. He headed to the Circle K at the corner of Youree Drive and East Bert Kouns Industrial Loop, where he stopped his car and waited for a white Honda Accord to come to the intersection. When that Accord stopped at the intersection, Smith exited the driver’s seat of the Optima, which was owned by his girlfriend, and began firing a rifle at the intersection. Other occupants of the Optima, who are awaiting trial for their part in the shootings, also fired shots into the intersection.
Kelvontae Daigre, 13, was in the back seat of the Accord; he was struck in the back and killed. The driver of that car also was injured. Three other cars in the intersection, with seven people inside, were shot up, with one other passenger being struck by a bullet. Diagonally across the intersection, WK Pierremont Medical Center also was damaged by the gunfire. Shreveport Police collected 50 spent shell casings from the Circle K parking lot.
Smith got back into the Optima and led police on a high-speed chase throughout Shreveport, ending in Cedar Grove. Smith and the others in the car fled. Police located the guns used in the shooting in nearby yards. Smith’s handprint and DNA were found in the car.
Surveillance video from the Circle K showed Smith, wearing the same clothes he was seen in at Tinseltown minutes before, get out of the Optima and he was the first of the occupants to begin firing into the intersection. Smith also exchanged text messages with his girlfriend claiming responsibility for the shooting at the intersection. The following day, he went to the residence of an acquaintance and laughed about the shooting that left Daigre deceased.
In addition to the mandatory life sentence for the murder, Smith faces 10 to 50 years at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence on each count of attempted murder, and one to 15 years with or without hard labor on each of the aggravated criminal damage to property counts.
Smith was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Courtney N. Ray, William J. Edwards and Cheyenne Y. Wilson. He was defended by Casey Simpson, Madi Crusan and Harry Johnson.
The case was docket No. 397671
* In another high-profile case, a Shreveport man found guilty in Caddo District Court in July in connection with an armed robbery and shooting at a popular local restaurant was sentenced to just under 120 years in prison October 11.
District Judge Ramona Emanuel sentenced Devonta Davis, 23, to 97 years for armed robbery and 20 years for attempted manslaughter. The sentences are to run consecutive to each other.
On July 29, 2017, Davis and an accomplice waited outside the back of El Compadre Mexican restaurant to commit a robbery. When their victim exited the eatery, they approached her at gunpoint and demanded her purse.
The woman’s son rushed to her defense and was shot twice in the chest, suffering life-threatening wounds. He spent months in rehabilitation and underwent several surgeries but survived.
Davis and his accomplice left the scene on bicycles and eventually abandoned them in a field along the ditch line in the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant. Officers recovered the victim’s purse, wallet and cell phone in one of the fields. Nearby, officers recovered articles of Davis’ bloody clothing.
The physical evidence, as well as witness testimony and a statement from the co-defendant, who pleaded guilty in a separate trial as a principal to the armed robbery, proved Davis’s guilt.
Assistant District Attorneys Brittany Arvie and William “Bill” Edwards prosecuted. Davis was defended by Katherine Ferguson, Royal Alexander and Evan McMichael.
The case was docket No. 370411.
* A Shreveport teen will be tried in Caddo District Court in connection with an attempted second-degree murder and attempted armed robbery that occurred in early October in west Shreveport.
In a continued custody hearing in Caddo Parish Juvenile Court October 16, Juvenile Judge Ree Casey-Jones determined there was probable cause that Devetrick Johnson, 16, committed offenses as charged and could be transferred to adult court for prosecution.
I then ordered Johnson to be tried as an adult in District Court.
An October 9 carjacking attempt at an apartment complex in the 6800 block of Rasberry Lane, across the street from Huntington High School, led to two shots being fired at the driver. The driver was struck in an arm and was treated at Ochsner LSU Health. He survived. The shooter fled, but video surveillance and distinctive clothing led to Johnson’s identification by police, who arrested him at an apartment in the 6000 block of Rasberry Lane.
Louisiana Children’s Code article 305 provides for the divestiture of juvenile court jurisdiction upon review by the District Attorney for children 15 or older for a select number of criminal acts, including armed robbery. A provision of the same code’s Article 879 further provides that all proceedings in a juvenile delinquency case involving a crime of violence as defined by the code must be open to the public.
Assistant District Attorney Jerry Deason secured the findings.
* A Mooringsport man who molested a female relative with a developmental disability was convicted October 3 in Caddo District Court.
The eight-man, four-woman jury in District Judge Chris Victory’s court deliberated 30 minutes before returning its unanimous verdict that Michael Harris, 69, was guilty of molestation of a juvenile or a person with a physical or mental disability in connection with the attack that occurred September 24, 2021.
The jury learned that the victim, a woman in her late 20s who has the cognitive abilities of a 12-year-old, woke up to Harris committing lewd and lascivious acts on her while she and a sister were sleeping over during a medical emergency involving their mother and a sibling.
Judge Victory remanded Harris pending sentencing. When he returns to court for sentencing November 8, Harris faces imprisonment at hard labor for at least 25 years and not more than 99 years, with at least 25 years to be served without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.
Harris was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Victoria Washington and Sam Crichton. He was defended by Michael Enright and Dave Knadler.
The case was docket No. 389817.
* A Shreveport man was found guilty of attempted first-degree murder of a Shreveport police officer and aggravated flight October 4 in Caddo District Court.
The four-man, eight-woman jury in District Judge Donald E. Hathaway Jr.’s court deliberated two-and-a-half hours before returning its guilty-as-charged verdicts against Lavonta Smith, 25.
The jury determined that on October 29, 2021, Smith fled from former SPD officer Joshua Sass following a traffic stop and during the chase fired several shots at Sass.
At around 2:45 a.m. that day, Officer Sass saw Smith run a red light at a railroad crossing and attempted to make a traffic stop. Smith led police on a chase through the Ingleside and Cedar Grove neighborhoods and during the dispute fired three shots from a semi-automatic firearm, the bullets striking Sass’s front driver-side windshield. The chase ended when Smith’s vehicle ran off the road in the 100 block of 77th street and Smith fled on foot. He was apprehended in the back yard of a neighborhood residence.
When Smith returns to Judge Hathaway’s court for sentencing November 6, he faces up to five years at hard labor in prison for the aggravated flight from an officer conviction. For the conviction for attempted first-degree murder he faces at least 10 and up to 50 years at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.
Assistant District Attorneys William Edwards and Jason Waltman prosecuted Smith. Smith was defended by Elizabeth Gibson and Carter Lawrence.
The case was docket No. 386081.
* A Big Sandy, Texas man was found guilty of burglary and weapons charges October 6 in Caddo District Court.
The five-woman, seven-man jury returned its guilty verdicts against David Ray Boswell Jr., 42, in District Judge Ramona Emanuel’s court after deliberating less than an hour.
The jury returned its guilty as-charged verdicts on eight counts of simple burglary and one count of illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities, and found Boswell guilty responsively to one count of attempted aggravated burglary.
On May 4, 2020, Boswell went on a burglary spree, burglarizing two vehicles at Shreve City Car Care and six vehicles on Preston Avenue. Later, he entered the property of a Shreveport Police officer, burglarizing the garage and taking several items. While there, he fired a weapon, as shown by evidence. Fingerprints and multiple samples of blood were collected and were all determined to belong to Boswell.
Boswell will return to Judge Emanuel’s court November 16 for sentencing. For attempted aggravated burglary, he faces at least five and up to 15 years in prison. For the simple burglary he faces up to 12 years in prison, and for the weapons charge he faces up to two years.
Boswell was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Senae Hall and Fernando Grider. He was defended by Royal Alexander and Evan McMichael.
The case was docket No. 375445.
* A Shreveport man was found guilty of separate molestations of two juvenile relatives over an eight-year period, by a Caddo Parish jury that returned its unanimous verdict October 6.
Christopher Daniel Rodgers, 55, was found guilty of two counts of molesting a juvenile under age 13 by the eight-woman, four-man jury in District Judge Donald E. Hathaway Jr.’s court.
Evidence and testimony presented to the jury proved Rodgers performed lewd and lascivious acts upon a 14-year-old female between February 8, 2013 and February 8, 2020, and then fondled a male infant between May 22, 2019 and August 17, 2021. The victim reported the acts to her aunt in August 2021, and later disclosed further details in a forensic interview at the Gingerbread House. A childhood friend of the victim testified she witnessed Rodgers viewing pornography with children in the home.
Rodgers testified at trial and denied the allegations. However, the jury rejected his claims and deliberated four hours before returning its verdict.
When he returns for sentencing November 6, Rodgers faces at least 25 and up to 99 years on each count, with at least 25 years to be served without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.
Rodgers was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Jason Waltman and Kendra Joseph. He was defended by Dhu Thompson.
The case was docket No. 386031.
These are a few of the many prosecutions our office conducted in October. I thank my assistant district attorneys and staff and law enforcement officers for their hard work in bringing these cases to conclusion, witnesses to come forward to testify, and the Caddo Parish citizens who serve on our many juries. The hard work has already continued into November. Be safe and remember to go vote!
At your service,
James E. Stewart
Caddo Parish District Attorney