Guilty verdict in beating death
A jury of seven men and five women found Darby Frickey Jr. guilty of second-degree murder after about 45 minutes of deliberations.
Frickey was charged with beating Mark Berthelot to death on Oct. 5, 2011.
Jurors returned the verdict at about 12:40 p.m. today.
The prosecution rested its case late Wednesday afternoon and then Robby Gill, one of Frickey’s two attorneys, introduced a 2006 admittance record from Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma before closing the case for the defense.
The document showed Berthelot arrived at the hospital by ambulance in an altered mental state after ingesting methamphetamines. Gill did not explain to the jurors the significance of the document. But, during the past two days he repeatedly painted Berthelot as an unstable, dangerous meth user and distributor.
After lunch, Mary Manhein director of FACES Laboratory at LSU testified that Berthelot’s jaw had been spit in two and his skull shattered in many places. The Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services provide identification services for law enforcement.
Berthelot supporters, some crying on the shoulders of each other, watched as Manheim went through photographs projected on a screen of the decayed body and pictures of his skull in bits and pieces.
Frickey did not look at the photographs at first, but eventually he began to glance toward the photos.
There were multiple instances of blunt force trauma, Manhein said. She presented a diagram reproduction of the skull showing dozens of fractures and pieces missing.
St. Mary Parish Coroner Dr. Francis Metz Jr. said at least three or four of the indentions in the skull would have been fatal — “inconsistent with life.” He was about 90 percent certain the slit throat was “inconsistent with life.” He said he did not have enough information to determine what specific action caused the death.
Earlier in the morning, Jeff Conerly testified Frickey offered him drugs and asked him to help dispose of the body. With Conerly on the stand, Assistant District Attorney Anthony Saleme played an audio interview of Conerly conducted by St. Mary Parish Sheriff Capt. Jonathan Booth on Dec. 6, the day after Frickey confessed to the killing.
Conerly said in the interview that he was scared of the 150-pound Frickey who had a gun in the house, but despite “freaking out” he helped Frickey put the victim’s corpse into the ice chest, which was eventually found by sugar cane farmers on Nov. 18, 2011, near Centerville.
Conerly’s version of how he was told the killing occurred differed from Frickey’s confession. He said Frickey picked up an iron rod before entering the house and killed Berthelot while he lay sleeping on the couch.
Saleme played Frickey’s second statement made on Dec. 5 after he was charged with second-degree murder. In that statement he confessed to killing Berthelot out of fear for his life.
Frickey said in the recorded statement that he had been ordering Berthelot out of his home for a while. He came home from work for lunch on the day of the killing and found Berthelot still in his house and they argued and began to fight.
“He lost his mind and he swung at me,” Frickey said of Berthelot. He said had the punch landed, he would have been “hospitalized then and there.”
Frickey said he kicked Berthelot a couple times and then “way-laid” him with a stainless steel pipe.
“I just lost it ... I just snapped,” Frickey said as he hit Berthelot 15 to 20 times with the pipe. Then to make sure he was dead, he slit Berthelot’s throat, he said in the statement.
“I was scared he would live and it would be worse on me,” Frickey told Booth in the statement. “After I hit him like two or three times, I knew if I didn’t finish him it would be signing my death warrant ... Either him or his family would come after me.”
Frickey told Booth that Conerly “caught me red-handed” trying to put the corpse in the ice chest and he convinced Conerly to help him.
Conerly said, “I was tripping out and I am trying to think cool but the whole time I was scared to death,” he said in the recorded interview as he spoke of helping Frickey.
Booth said no promises were given to Conerly before or after the statement. Booth said he did not charge Conerly due to Conerly talking about the nightmares he had over the issue and believing Conerly helped Frickey because he was afraid something might happen to him if he did not.
After closing arguments are presented this morning, the judge will give the jury instructions on what options they have available for sentencing, including any that may be less than second-degree murder.