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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Trial ongoing for suspect in Larose double murder

Trial ongoing for suspect in Larose double murder

Jurors hear confession in murder case

Jordan Landry called his mother, Nikki, a few times the morning of Sept. 22, 2013.

She didn't answer, but that was normal. Maybe she was sleeping or just didn't hear her phone.

He arrived at the Westside Apartments where he and his mother lived on West Fourth Street in Larose and found their apartment door open, which was odd because she normally kept it locked.

A gruesome scene greeted him when he entered the apartment. Forty-one-year-old Nikki Landry and her acquaintance 54-year-old Harry Lefort had been shot and killed as she lay in bed and he sat on the couch.

Jordan Landry testified Wednesday during the trial of 21-year-old Traveyon Blackledge, who is charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of Nikki Landry and Lefort.

Blackledge's father, 38-year-old Toronzo Thompkins, is accused of ordering Blackledge and 38-year-old Jerrard Major, Sr. to kill Nikki Landry, who was a confidential informant set to testify in Thompkins' crack cocaine distribution trial.

Thompkins is already serving a life sentence after he was convicted of the drug charge despite Nikki Landry's death. He is scheduled for trial on second-degree murder charges May 23 in state District Judge Walter Lanier's courtroom in Thibodaux.

Major is set for a hearing March 24 on motions to suppress his police statement and get money from the Louisiana Public Defender Board to hire a forensic psychologist.

Assistant District Attorneys Joe Soignet and Jason Chatagnier are the prosecutors for Blackledge's trial, and New Iberia attorney Lynden Burton is representing Blackledge. Lanier is presiding over the case.

Soignet said in his opening statement that the crime likely occurred between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 22, 2013, but deputies were dispatched about 11:45 a.m. Blackledge was picked up during a traffic stop Feb. 6, 2014.

Blackledge initially told detectives Major entered the apartment with two guns and shot both victims, but detectives said that didn't match the evidence from the scene. Blackledge then said Major had shot Nikki Landry, then pointed a gun at him and threatened to shoot him if he didn't kill Lefort.

In his opening statement, Burton told the jury that Blackledge reads at a first-grade level. He said his client was held at the Sheriff's Office substation for more than 12 hours and that detectives could have recorded that whole time but didn't.

Burton said detectives claimed to have offered Blackledge a chance to sleep, but there was no bed where he was held. Witnesses have said they heard him screaming and being thrown against a wall, but there is no proof of that.

Jurors on Thursday heard Taveyon Blackledge’s confession to detectives and jail conversations between him and his father, who is alleged to have ordered the crime.

At the beginning of the calls, Thompkins states his name.

"I know the odds are against me," he said in one call.

Thompkins would call someone and then have them connect him to Blackledge. The day before the slayings, he mentioned "that confidential informant," saying she needed to "get out of Dodge."

In another call, he lamented to another man that Blackledge didn't "at least try to get me a lawyer. ... He didn't do nothing for me."

Blackledge and two other males were picked up during a traffic stop about 4 p.m. Feb. 6, 2014, and arrived at the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office's Criminal Operations Center in Lockport shortly before 5 p.m. There, detectives questioned and eventually released the other two males before moving on to Blackledge.

Detectives Ben Dempster and Kevin Johnson questioned Blackledge. Dempster testified that Blackledge signed a waiver of his rights and appeared to understand what he was doing.

In a pre-interview about 10:30 p.m., Dempster said, the detectives spoke with Blackledge about how he knew the victims, his relationship with his father and how Thompkins and Major had pressured him to kill Landry or pay someone to do it. The pre-interview was not recorded.

The jury then heard Blackledge's first recorded interview, which began shortly before 2 a.m.

"He tried to pressure me, tried to make me do something I don't want to do," Blackledge said of Thompkins.

Dempster asked if he meant kill Landry, and Blackledge said yes.

"Why was he trying to pressure you into killing Nikki Landry?" Dempster asked.

"He had to go to court, and he didn't want to go to jail for a long time," Blackledge responded.

Dempster asked him what Thompkins meant by hiring a lawyer.

"You try to hire somebody to do something," Blackledge said.

When asked if "do something" meant kill someone, Blackledge said it did.

He told the detectives he'd driven to the apartment, and Major went in and killed the victims. He said he then drove away, dropped Major off at home and paid him $2,000.

Blackledge said he'd known Landry for a couple of months.

"Even though I knew her situation and what she did, I really didn't want nothing to happen to her," he said. "She was always good to me."

He said he had no one to turn to for guidance when his father began pressuring him into committing the crime.

Captains Chad Shelby and Todd Charlet then questioned Blackledge.

Shelby said a $5 bill was found near Landry's body, so robbery was an unlikely motive. Investigators also found crack cocaine, synthetic marijuana, pills and drug paraphernalia in the apartment.

It appeared the two victims were killed at nearly the same time, Shelby testified. Landry was found lying on her side in bed, and Lefort was on the couch immediately inside the apartment, facing away from the door. Shelby said he told Blackledge it made no sense that someone would have used two guns for the same crime, stood in the hallway and at once shot Lefort on the couch and Landry in the bedroom.

"Bullets don't magically bend around corners," he said.

Shelby said Blackledge then became emotional but eventually agreed to give a new statement to Dempster and Johnson.

In his second recorded interview about 5:20 a.m., Blackledge said Major shot Landry and then pointed a gun at him and forced him to kill Lefort.

There were no video cameras in the room, and the Sheriff's Office does not use body cameras. New Iberia defense attorney Lynden Burton grilled Dempster and Shelby on the lack of recording and the fact that Blackledge was in the room for 12 hours, alone except when the detectives were questioning him.

State District Judge Walter Lanier is presiding over the case, which Assistant District Attorneys Joe Soignet and Jason Chatagnier are prosecuting. Prosecutors were expected to finish calling witnesses on Friday.

Daily Comet Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.