Alleged priest killer’s trial still set for August

| May 24, 2010

THIBODAUX – The trial of a man accused of killing a Thibodaux priest nearly 18 years ago will go likely go forward in August, lawyers said, though a local judge ruled two months ago he cannot be sentenced for the crime because he was a juvenile at the time of the alleged murder.

District Attorney Cam Morvant II and defense attorney Lynden Burton each said they believe Derrick Odomes' Aug. 23 trial date will proceed as planned, even though an appeals court has not ruled whether he can be sentenced if convicted because he was a juvenile at the time.

Odomes, a 32-year-old Houma resident, is accused of killing the Rev. Hunter Horgan in August 1992 inside the rectory of St. John's Episcopal Church in Thibodaux. Odomes was 14 at the time of the priest's death.

District Judge John LeBlanc ruled in March that even if Odomes is convicted of killing Horgan, he can't be sentenced because state law in 1992 prohibited a juvenile from being sentenced as an adult. The Lafourche District Attorney's Office appealed LeBlanc's decision. Though the appeal is before the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal, that should not delay Odomes' trial, Burton and Morvant said.

Once the appeals court rules on the sentencing issue, the attorneys will decide whether to appeal the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The prosecution has not asked for a stay order in the case, meaning the trial can go ahead even if the sentencing question has not been resolved, Burton said.

“We're just gearing up and preparing for trial,” the defense attorney said.

Odomes appeared in LeBlanc's courtroom Wednesday to resolve any lingering matters prior to trial. However, LeBlanc rescheduled the hearing for July 28 at Burton's request.

One issue that will likely be discussed at Odomes' next court appearance is the prosecution's request to increase Odomes' bond amount based on a pending witness-intimidation charge.

That charge stems from allegations Odomes threatened a Lafourche Parish jail guard who was the alleged victim of an earlier obscene act committed by Odomes inside the jail.

That should not prevent Odomes' trial on the murder charge from moving forward, said Burton, who asked for the delay so he could file a motion arguing against a bond increase.

Since he is being held without bond for the murder charge, he can't get out of jail until the case is resolved. Though Odomes might not be sentenced on the murder charge, he potentially faces decades in prison if convicted of other charges he's facing, including obscenity and intimidation of a witness. The District Attorney's Office may prosecute him as a habitual offender, thus increasing his potential prison time.

Jon Perry, Horgan's cousin and family spokesman, declined comment following court Wednesday.

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Category: Church Security

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