BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The wife of a man who was killed during an alleged attempted burglary was released from prison on bond after the District Attorney reviewed her case and amended a charge against her.
"She cannot be charged as a principle to second-degree murder by case law [the law as established by the outcome of former cases]," said District Attorney Hillar Moore.
From the day Deneatrice Cage-Wheeler, 36, was arrested by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, Moore questioned whether or not the second-degree murder charge would stand.
"Whether I feel it's fair or not, this is what the law imposes upon me and anyone else, so ethically, based on the law that I have, I cannot go forward with a second-degree murder charge," Moore said. "I can go forward with all of the other appropriate charges, but in this case, just not the second-degree murder."
Moore initially anticipated it to take several months before determining whether or not the case would move forward. But just over one week after the shooting happened, Wheeler was released on a $32,500 bond. She is still charged with aggravated burglary and simple burglary for unrelated charges filed by the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Wheeler's husband, Jermoid Wheeler, 31, was shot and killed on Tuesday, March 3 at a home on Summer Breeze Drive. Investigators with the Sheriff's Office claim the two were in the process of burglarizing the home when they 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 crowbar 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.
Although Deneatrice allegedly admitted to detectives she had been with her husband when he committed burglaries in the past, she claims 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 crowbar and running back to the truck with it."
Picking up that crow bar was a key reason why investigators believed Wheeler knew her husband's intent at the home, which lead to the second-degree murder charge against her. That crowbar, however, is the same key piece of evidence that prevents Moore from being able to prosecute her for the charge.
"According to case law, if he had brought a gun to the house, then she could be charged with second-degree murder, but that's not the case here," he explained. "He only had a crowbar."