Couvillion trial handed to jury

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 13, 2004

By LEONARD GRAY – Managing Editor

HAHNVILLE – Calvin Couvillion’s fate was being decided by the jury Friday after testimony and arguments concluded in his trial for the second-degree murder of James Lester Rogers of LaPlace.

The trial began Monday with opening statements and prosecution testimony starting Tuesday. Testimony concluded Thursday evening, with closing arguments and jury instructions Friday morning.

A verdict was still awaited, as of press time.

Couvillion’s taped statement was played Thursday in open court, offering the jury a chilling look into that Mardi Gras 2002 night.

Rogers’ parents, sister and several other relatives sat quietly throughout the trial. During the playing of the statement, Dr. Wayne Rogers sat with his head bent deeply, his hands over his face.

That image was mirrored by Couvillion, who wept at his chair, seated alongside his defense attorney, Randy Lewis of Luling.

“I said to Brandon (Stein), ‘You’re killing him!'” Couvillion said in his statement relating the events of that night.

Stein confessed in open court during his own trial last March to killing Rogers, choking him to death on the night of Feb. 12, 2002. A jury took three and a half hours to decide he had specific intent and convicted Stein of second-degree murder, which has a mandatory life sentence.

Stein’ received his sentence from 29th Judicial District


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Judge Robert Chaisson last June. Chaisson also presided over Couvillion’s trial this week.

Couvillion, 23, of Paradis, is accused of assisting in overpowering Rogers during Stein’s attack. Prosecutor was Julie Cullen of the Louisiana Attorney General’s office.

Stein, now 21, of Reserve, and his cousin, Timothy Prudhomme, now 19, also of Reserve, along with Rogers, then 17, all went to the residence of Calvin Couvillion in Paradis that night.

Prudhomme testified on Tuesday he saw Stein grab Rogers in a headlock and then whip his belt around his neck, to drag him toward a bedroom, in an effort to keep Rogers from leaving the party.

As Stein and Rogers moved backwards through the living room, the flailing pair allegedly hit Couvillion, who then “reacted” and began pummeling Rogers as well.

By the time the three reached the bedroom, Rogers was unconscious at least and possibly already dead, according to Couvillion’s testimony.

Stein checked Rogers and claimed the youth was dead, then enlisted Couvillion and Prudhomme to help load Rogers in a pickup truck, wrapped in a blanket and a mattress.

Stein then allegedly dropped Rogers’ remains off an Interstate 310 ramp near Airline Drive, where it was located three days later by Detective Rodney Madere of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Couvillion also testified it was Stein’s intent to steal Rogers’ stereo gear, having told him of his intention days in advance.

Stein was in the custody of Detective-Sgt. Rodney Madere of the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office at their criminal investigations division office in St. Rose, when he finally broke and confessed on tape to the killing.

The tape of that interview was played in open court, in which Stein related how Rogers wanted to leave and he choked him to death instead, assisted by Couvillion, who was hitting and punching the youth.

“Who’s the bad guy here?” Madere asked Couvillion during the taped statement. “I want the bad guy.”

Initially, Couvillion arranged with friends an alibi that he had been on Bourbon Street at the time of the murder, but that quickly broke down during questioning.

Prudhomme’s trial date has not yet been set. Prosecutor Julie Cullen intends to seek trial for obstruction of justice, rather than another murder trial.