Suspect pleads in triple slaying
LAFAYETTE (AP) — One of five suspects in a 2012 triple homicide in Gonzales pleaded guilty Tuesday, avoiding a potential death sentence.
Ascension Parish’s District Attorney Ricky Babin said Michael Aikens, 37, of Prairieville, entered the plea to three counts of first-degree murder in exchange for three life sentences.
A formal sentencing date has not been set.
Babin said the plea came as jury selection continued in Lafayette. State District Judge Alvin Turner Jr. moved the process there because of pretrial publicity in the deaths of Robert Irwin Marchand, 74; his wife, Shirley Marchand, 72, and, his stepson, Douglas Dooley, 50, of Cross Plains, Tenn.
Turner planned to hold the trial in Ascension Parish once a jury was seated. At the time of the plea, no jurors had been selected, Babin said.
The Marchands and Dooley were found Feb. 18, 2012, with their throats slashed, apparently during Aikens’ and the others alleged bid to steal gold and other coins from a safe in the Marchand’s house near Gonzales.
Aikens had worked for Marchand more than a decade earlier and knew about the man’s coin collection, authorities have said.
Robert Marchand and Dooley were found dead. Shirley Marchand died March 2, 2012.
Babin said Aikens made the plea offer and did not agree to testify in the trials of his co-defendants — Bernard James, Devon James and Rolondo Stewart, each of Prairieville; and Travis Moore, of Baton Rouge.
All five men were indicted on first-degree murder charges, though prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty for Devon James, who, authorities said, received $200 and a tank of gasoline for his assistance.
Babin said no trial dates had been set against the other defendants.
“Bernard James will be next,” Babin said, adding he would like to see the trial for James, 26, by the end of the year.