By Molly Moorhead, Times Staff Writer
Published Wednesday, March 18, 2009
DADE CITY — After he killed two teenagers in a merciless execution over a piddling amount of money and dope, Luc Pierre-Charles started talking.
He talked about how he made the victims beg for their lives.
He bragged about how he emptied his gun into their backs.
He even demonstrated how he did it.
Pierre-Charles, who was arrested last fall in the July 2006 killings, faced trial this week. Prosecutors had little physical evidence but found enough witnesses to recount, under oath, what he'd told them about the last moments of Derek Pieper's and Raymond Veluz's lives.
And on Wednesday evening, after five hours of deliberations, a jury found Pierre-Charles, 21, guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.
A crowd of nearly 50 friends and family cried. On the other side of the courtroom, Pieper's mother, Susan Wood, wept, too.
"Justice was served," she said.
Pierre-Charles faces either life in prison or the death penalty. His sentencing is scheduled for this morning.
Authorities say Pierre-Charles was a drug dealer who guarded his turf with paranoia and intimidation. On July 27, 2006, Pieper, 17, a student at Wesley Chapel High School, was at a party where his friend Veluz, 18, asked him to help him buy marijuana. Even though Pieper had told friends and family he was growing afraid of Pierre-Charles and his associates, that's where he turned that night to score drugs.
The last time witnesses saw the teens alive, they were in the backseat of Veluz's car. Pierre-Charles was driving. Tyree Jenkins, who has also been charged in the killings, rode shotgun.
Pieper's and Veluz's bodies were discovered the next morning, face down on a dusty road, their backs sprayed with bullets.
Prosecutors said Pierre-Charles believed Pieper had snitched on him to other drug dealers. Veluz, they said, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The boys were robbed of about $60 and a small stash of marijuana.
Four witnesses took the stand for the state during the eight-day trial and recalled what Pierre-Charles had told them.
Angel Brooks was the closest thing to an eyewitness. She was with Andre Pierre-Charles, the defendant's younger brother, the night of the killings. She testified that Andre got a call from Luc, and in the background she overheard Luc telling the boys to get on their knees and pray.
When she saw Luc the next morning, she said, he talked and demonstrated how he killed them.
"What did he say?" Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia asked her.
"I held the gun like this, and I emptied the whole clip," Brooks said.
"Tyree was standing there," she added.
"Was he laughing?" Garcia asked.
"Yes," she said.
"They thought it was funny?" Garcia asked.
Brooks was the girlfriend of Jeremy Henry, a known criminal and friend of Pierre-Charles who was initially suspected in the murders. Henry was found dead weeks later. Authorities have arrested a man who said Luc and Andre Pierre-Charles paid him to kill Henry, fearing he would soon go to the police.
Witness Anthony Harris testified that he was working as a confidential informant in 2006 when he saw Luc Pierre-Charles at the home of another drug dealer.
"He said he unloaded numerous times in the back of one boy's head," Harris testified. "And he said Tyree unloaded in the other boy's head."
Asked why, Harris said: "I guess they be wanting a rep — a reputation in the streets as being the man in the streets," he said. "That's how it is."
Defense attorneys sought to discredit the state's witnesses as jailhouse snitches who told evolving stories and pushed their own agendas. They pointed the finger at Henry and Andre Pierre-Charles, using cell phone records to show calls that night between Pieper and Andre.
Perhaps the strongest testimony for the state came from John Booker Blanford. He said he helped Luc Pierre-Charles — his cousin — dispose of the gun used in the murders, tossing it into a lake.
The reason for the bloodshed, according to Blanford: "He and Tyree wanted to bag their first bodies."
Outside the courtroom, where security was heavy, defense attorney Lane Lastinger comforted Pierre-Charles' family and told them not to lose faith. His father, Luc Sr., cried and said, "I know my son didn't kill nobody."