Attorney appointed for murder suspect

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 15, 2010



LAPLACE – Earnest Joseph III, the LaPlace man accused of killing 15-year-old Taylor Adams, returned to St. John the Baptist Parish Friday evening after being captured in Gulfport, Miss., Wednesday. He now faces a second-degree murder charge in connection with Adams’ death.

Joseph, 27, was booked into the Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Investigations Division late Friday evening after waiving extradition in a Hancock County court. He remains in jail on a $2 million bond as his court proceedings began Monday morning.

St. John authorities had originally sought Joseph on a first-degree murder charge, but District Attorney Tom Daley said Monday he had recommended the amended charge after reviewing existing evidence in the investigation.

“The investigation had not specified an aggravated felony and therefore did not fulfill certain requirements for first-degree murder,” Daley said. “The higher charge is still not out of the question, but at this point in the investigation they do not have all of the forensic evidence back yet.”

Daley explained that first-degree murder requires a specific type of crime in addition to the killing, such as aggravated burglary, kidnapping, armed robbery or rape. He said information from the Sheriff’s Office did not specify any aggravated crime.

“I wanted to be sure the charge was beyond attack,” Daley said. “We went with what the evidence shows at this time.”

Daley said the distinct difference between first- and second-degree murder is that Joseph cannot be sentenced to death if found guilty should the current charge remain. The maximum sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison without the benefit of probation or parole.

Daley said Joseph has not yet been indicted in connection with the murder. He explained that prosecutors have 30 days from the day of arrest to render charges. Joseph’s case is scheduled to go before a grand jury in the first week of January.

On Monday, District Court Judge Sterling Snowdy held a videoconference hearing in LaPlace where he appointed St. John Parish Chief Public Defender Richard Stricks to represent Joseph at trial.

Jones is accused of beating Adams to death inside her home in the 2500 block of Yorktowne Drive in the early morning hours of Dec. 5. Adams’ mother Gaylyn discovered her daughter’s body after returning from work about 6:30 a.m. that morning. Gaylyn Adams told detectives she had not seen or spoken to her daughter since about 9 p.m. Dec. 4, and that she expected her daughter to be home alone. The mother had worked as a security guard in LaPlace and often worked a 12-hour shift overnight.

An autopsy report indicated Adams sustained “blunt force trauma to the head” but did not specify a murder weapon. Detectives suspect the incident took place sometime after 1 a.m. Dec. 5 based on Adams’ Facebook activity that evening.

Joseph and Adams lived on the same street and within a couple of blocks of each other, and authorities said the two knew each other. Detectives have not released a motive in the killing, but evidence showed that an intense struggle took place inside the home.