Caldarera surprises court, pleads guilty

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 1, 2004


Managing Editor

CONVENT – Ryan Caldarera put an end to a case which had dragged on for three and a half years.

Ryan Caldarera, now 18, pleaded guilty Wednesday to the second-degree shooting deaths of his father and stepmother, Victor “Sonny” and Tracy Caldarera of Lutcher, on April 5, 2001.

“I didn’t think he was going to plea,” 23rd Judicial District Attorney Anthony Falterman commented.

Caldarera, a 14-year-old seventh-grade student at Lutcher Junior High School at the time, stated he shot and killed the couple in their home on the night of April 4, 2001, leaving behind his 6-year-old half-sister.

A pre-sentencing investigation was ordered by the court, and he could face a maximum sentence to age 31, as he was a juvenile at the time of the offense, but scheduled to be tried as an adult. Normally, second-degree murder has a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

In addition, Caldarera will receive a sentence in the range of two to five years for the escape, consecutive to the murder sentence.

“It’s as good as we could have gotten with a jury,” Assistant District Attorney Ricky Babin, the prosecutor in the case, said.

Judge John Peytavin of the 23rd Judicial District ruled that Caldarera should be tried as an adult for the murder on Aug. 17, 2002, but a stay order was issued at the same time to permit attorneys to appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court denied Caldarera’s writ application Sept. 21, 2002.

Caldarera’s plea of not guilty by reason of insanity led to a motion to form a sanity commission on Nov. 28, 2001, and that commission, including Dr. Thomas Fain of Baton Rouge, Dr. Sara Deland of New Orleans and parish coroner Dr. Carl Poche, reported on Aug. 27, 2002.

The report claimed Caldarera had “appeared to have built up anger toward his parents” who, he claimed, verbally and physically abused him. None of those claims were proven.

The report added Caldarera admitted to alcohol and marijuana abuse, beginning at a young age, and also said the teen-ager “doesn’t remember the crime.”

Caldarera did admit to being expelled from one middle school in Pensacola, Fla., while living for a time with his birth mother, for using marijuana. Placed in a court school, he was soon expelled again, this time for talking about bombs and bomb-making.

His first arrest was at age 12 for marijuana use, and he was also charged in November 2000 for auto theft, illegal possession of a firearm and possession of marijuana. Caldarera claimed to have begun abusing alcohol at age 9 or 10, and marijuana at age 11 or 12.

The trial had not yet been scheduled in Division C of the 23rd JDC, before Judge Guy Holdridge when the surprise plea change came. “There were numerous motions to be heard, including a change of venue motion and other motions concerning the escape, but before they were heard, he changed his plea,” Babin said.