BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A 10 year cold murder case came to an end Thursday with two people pleading guilty to manslaughter. It took some shrewd negotiations on the part of the stat to get both defendants to admit what they did in 2002.
Dana Smith and Melvin Toups both admitted their guilt Thursday in the 2002 murder of Nelson Dunbar. Smith had been in trial all week on second degree murder charges. Thursday, after some strong suggestions from state prosecutors, both pleaded guilty. The state proposed flipping Smith to testify against Toups which nudged both of them to take a lesser charge of Manslaughter.
"The slickest thing that happened was the co-defendant didn't want to testify yesterday and somebody made the suggestion that she testify against; that bought everything to a head right there," said Bo Rougeau, defense attorney.
Dana Smith talked her then boyfriend, Melvin Toups, into robbing her ex-boyfriend Nelson Dunbar. The robbery went bad and Toups beat Dunbar to death.
"I think this is appropriate. It's pretty obvious from all the evidence we had that there was never any intention on the part of either of them to kill Mr. Nelson that way," said Barry Fontenot, prosecutor.
It took the District Attorney's office 10 years to bring justice to Nelson. His brother says he is glad it's over. The prosecution literally brought this case back from the dead.
"For whatever reason, it was originally dead filed. Mr. Moore asked us to review all the cases when he became the D.A. This is just one we reviewed and after reviewing it we thought we should take a shot at it," said Fontenot.
Yesterday Dana Smith's daughter Trace Parrot testified against her mother. That plus the threat of Smith testifying against Melvin Toups convinced Toups to plead as well. Rougeou says because Parrot is 10 years older her testimony was much better than it would have been back then.
"I think justice was served. I think the best thing was the state 10 years had passed the place where it went down was a den of inequity at all. The witnesses have grown up and become lovely young ladies and became good witnesses their testimony was very credible I think if they had done it in 2002 and put this crew in there I don't think it would be believable at all," said Rougeau.
Both face up to 25 years in prison for their guilty plea of manslaughter. That was the maximum back then, now it is up to 40 years. They will be sentenced January 29, 2012.