BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Bond is set at $175,000 for the woman charged with second-degree murder after her husband was shot and killed by a homeowner during an alleged burglary. However, it is possible the charges could be amended.
"At this time I'm not sure if I will go with second-degree," said Hillar Moore, District Attorney. "It could be that although she's allowed to be arrested for that charge, there could be some case laws that prevent a grand jury from being able to indict her with that charge. Those are all things we'll have to look at."
Moore's office will review the case to determine whether or not it will go before a grand jury. That process will likely take several months.
Deneatrice Cage Wheeler, 36, was arrested by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office on Tuesday after her husband, Jermoid Wheeler, 31, was shot and killed at a home on Summer Breeze Drive. Investigators believe the couple forced their way into the home, but were thwarted by the homeowner.
"According to reports, the homeowner was asleep when he heard a noise at the back door," explained Casey Rayborn-Hicks, EBR Sheriff's Office. "He stated he retrieved his firearm and proceeded down the hall when he noticed someone trying to pry open the door.
"He stated he yelled at Wheeler to stop several times," she continued. "The homeowner stated Wheeler made full entry into his home holding a crow bar and walking in his direction. At that time, the homeowner fired one shot that struck Wheeler."
Deneatrice allegedly ran inside the home, grabbed the crow bar and walked back out of the residence. She told detectives she had no knowledge that her husband was attempting to burglarize the home.
"She did state that Wheeler was known to carry a crow bar while committing burglaries," Hicks noted.
Jermoid has a lengthy criminal history that includes several convictions. In 2004 he was arrested for second-degree murder for the death of 28-year-old Patrick Pierce. In 2009, he took a plea deal and his charge was amended to conspiracy to commit armed robbery. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with credit for time served.
"That case happened before I took office," Moore noted. "But according to the case file police did not believe he was the actual gunman, so a family member of the victim agreed to the lesser charge."
But that's not the only time Jermoid spent time in prison. He was convicted of several other offenses. Deneatrice was also arrested in connection to some of those cases, which were all related to accusations of theft.
Although Deneatrice allegedly admitted to detectives that she had been with her husband when he committed burglaries in the past, she claims she thought they were at the home for a much different reason.
"She stated that the two were looking for a new home, and she was waiting inside the truck when she heard the gunshot," Hicks said. "She admitted to grabbing the crow bar and running back to the truck with it."
Deputies believe that action was sufficient probable cause to charge Deneatrice with second-degree murder, as well as aggravated burglary and theft of goods. That's because the law stipulates that when an offender is engaged in the "perpetration or attempted perpetration" of particular crimes, they can be charged for any death that occurs, even if "the person had no intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm."
But even if this case does make its way to a grand jury and an indictment is secured, Moore is concerned that it could be challenging to present to a jury.
"We're dealing with a woman who lost her husband, and the jury could be sympathetic to her," he said. "If the jury were to follow the law and not be biased with any sympathy towards the woman, then it could be an easy case."
Simply put, there is nothing easy about the case and some difficult questions will be asked before the case can move forward.
"The bottom line for my office is, what is the right thing to do in this case?"