BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Opening statements got underway Monday morning for the man accused of killing another man and stuffing his body into a drum in Zachary two years ago.
Jace Crehan is accused of strangling and stuffing the body of Robert Noce Jr. in a 55-gallon barrel in July of 2015 in Zachary. Noce was convicted of sexually assaulting Crehan's then girlfriend, Brittany Monk, from when she was 4-years-old to when she was 13.
Noce pleaded no contest to the sexual claims just two weeks before he was found in a barrel.
The state started with brief opening statements, followed by the defense comparing the case to a modern day Romeo and Juliet, saying Crehan was protecting Monk when he killed Noce. The defense basically stipulated the boyfriend did kill the man, but debated whether Monk was lying or not about the sexual assault claims.
"I think what we are contesting is do the facts apply to the evidence. What is this? And again, not to beat the dead drum, we do not think it is second degree murder. We think it is something else. We have offered a manslaughter plea, but ultimately, it is in the hands of the citizens of Baton Rouge who are sitting in that box," said defense attorney, Franz Bourgardt.
"We are not retrying or revisiting anything that has to do with any other allegations that have been made. It's whether or not this killing was justified or not justified," said EBR District Attorney Hillar Moore. "This matter is set for second degree murder here. That is what it is being tried for. That's where we are."
There is no word yet on whether or not the prosecution or defense will call Monk to testify.
The state presented three witnesses Monday: two detectives and East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark, who all explained to the jury the crime scene photos and evidence that was collected, including the barrel Noce was stuffed in. The trial resumes Tuesday at 9 a.m.