23rd JDC aims to prosecute more than 30 murder cases this year

(WAFB) - District Attorney for the 23rd Judicial District Court Ricky Babin and his 20 assistant DA's will have the court dockets full this year. Babin hopes to set trial dates for some 25 murder cases in Ascension Parish, six in St. James Parish, and two in Assumption Parish.

Babin says one of the high-profile cases involves the 2014 murder of Talaija Dorsey, 12, who was beaten and left for dead in a sugar cane field. Her mother's live-in fiancée, John Celestine, Jr., faces a first degree murder charge in the disappearance, which prompted a community-wide search for the girl.

"The most shocking is the age of the victim, the innocence of the victim, and just knowing what she went through before she died," Babin said.

Another case involves the beating death of Brandon Augusta that same year. Four people, including Marcus Ester and Tyrell Williams, are accused of killing the 15-year-old and abandoning his body near the Mississippi River levee in Donaldsonville. Investigators say the suspects and the victim were high on synthetic marijuana.

"Most of our murders are related to narcotics, selling or buying, or disputes over narcotics," Babin said.

Babin also says many of the cases involve multiple defendants, which presents a different set of challenges. "It's always a challenge for us to find which one's the shooter, who was involved, whether somebody was actually on scene," Babin said.

Such is the case, he say, with a shooting that happened across the street from a church in Darrow, where bible study was underway. C'Prien Nicholas, Demitoris Alexander, Tachi Williams, and Clarence Ruth all face murder charges in the death of Isaac Prestley, 23. Deputies say 50 shell casings were found near the scene of the crime.

Babin says also set to be prosecuted is a ring of alleged thieves from the New Orleans area arrested in connection to a 2015 heist at Roussel's Jewelry Store on Airline Highway in Gonzales. Another name set to grace court dockets is no stranger to flood victims. Contractor Matthew Morris was indicted last year on 84 counts of contractor fraud over work he allegedly committed to have done for 18 victims of the August 2016 flood. Morris also faces trial in Livingston and East Baton Rouge parishes.

Babin says most of the cases in his district are set for trial in the next three months. The DA's office also has 500 pending cases that involve juveniles and prosecutes an estimated 2,500 felony cases each year.

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