Jury selection begins in trial of first suspect in gold coins murder

Michael Aikens
Michael Aikens

LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB) - Jury selection got underway Monday in the trial of one of five men suspected in the murders of three people during a home invasion in which gold coins were taken.

District Attorney Ricky Babin said Judge Alvin Turner held roll call and began splitting potential jurors into panels for the first-degree murder trial of Michael Aikens, 36, of Gonzales. Turner told the potential jurors to return Tuesday.

Jury selection is taking place at the federal courthouse in Lafayette, but the trial will be held in Ascension Parish, where the crime happened. The victims' relatives were not at the courthouse Monday.

Aikens is accused in the 2012 slayings of Robert Marchand, 74; his wife, Shirley, 72; and her son, Douglas Dooley, 50. Investigators said he and the other four suspects were trying to steal gold and valuable coins from the Marchand's home in Ascension Parish. Aikens worked for the couple.

Deputies with the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office went to the Marchands' home on Babin Road on Feb. 18, 2012 after family members were unable to get in touch with them. Robert Marchand and Dooley were already dead when deputies arrived on the scene. Shirley Marchand was clinging to life. Investigators said they were all found with their throats slashed. Shirley Marchand died almost two weeks after the attack.

Authorities said there was no forced entry into the home. A safe containing about $500,000 in gold coins was taken from the house. The safe was found two days later at a park in Livingston Parish. It had been torched open and most of the contents removed. The coins are still missing.

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for Aikens. He has an extensive criminal record with the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office. Aikens was arrested in 1996 for armed robbery and possession of cocaine, in 1997 for possession of drugs and in 2000 for illegal use of a weapon.

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