Victors fail to show for first day of trial

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2011



EDGARD – A Reserve couple on trial for second-degree murder in connection with the death of their 8-year-old son failed to show in court Monday for a pre-trial hearing and Tuesday for the first day of the trial.

District Judge Mary Hotard Becnel issued a bench warrant Monday for the arrest of Errol Victor Sr. and Tonya Victor for not showing up to the final status conference prior to the trial. Jury selection was supposed to begin Tuesday morning, but was postponed until today and Thursday because of the Victors’ continued absence.

The Victors are accused of second-degree murder in the death of M.L. Lloyd III, who is Tonya Victor’s son and Errol Victor’s stepson. The young boy was pronounced dead after being brought by the Victors to the River Parishes Hospital emergency room in April 2008.

Authorities say Lloyd had been severely whipped and beaten before being taken to the hospital. The Victors, who were arrested shortly after Lloyd was brought to the hospital, have vehemently denied the accusations and have maintained their innocence saying the child died as a result of a severe asthma attack.

Authorities from the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office made several attempts to locate and apprehend the Victors prior to Tuesday’s court date, including speaking to family members and searching the couple’s Reserve home, but nothing had worked as of press time Tuesday.

Although Tonya and Errol Victor Sr. did not show Tuesday, a small contingent of family members did appear in the courtroom just as the jury had been dismissed for the day. Among them were four of the Victors’ sons, including one, Fabian Victor, who was subpoenaed to appear as one of 150 potential jurors in the case.

Another of the Victors’ sons, Errol Victor Jr., who had initially been arrested in connection with the murder case, was also on the jury roll but did not appear Tuesday. Errol Victor Jr. was with the Victors at the hospital when M.L. Lloyd III was dropped off. He had been charged with accessory after the fact to murder, but that charge was not pursued. Because of his absence Tuesday, Becnel said Errol Victor Jr. has been charged with contempt of court, although family members present Tuesday said he has lived out of state for the last seven months and should not have been called for jury duty.

During the court hearing Monday, Lionel Lon Burns, the Victors’ attorney, said the only communication he had received from his clients was a “rambling” message regarding the hearing and upcoming trial. Burns again said Tuesday he had still received no contact from his clients.

Since the start of legal proceedings in the case against the Victors, Errol Victor Sr. has alleged numerous injustices by the court system all while maintaining he and his wife’s innocence. A gag order has been issued barring attorneys from commenting to the media on the court proceedings.

The Victors have also hired and fired numerous defense attorneys, including their current attorney Burns. Both Burns and the Victors have recently sought to end his job as counsel in the case.

The Victors attempted to fire Burns last week and also filed a lawsuit in federal court contending Burns refused to perform his duties as their attorney and properly prepare for trial. Burns, meanwhile, has also filed motions to withdraw from the case, but Becnel has denied those requests. When Burns was hired by the Victors again in April after previously being fired, the Victors had changed representation seven times, including one brief point where Errol Victor elected to represent himself.

Despite Becnel’s refusal to relieve Burns from the case, a new attorney for the Victors, Alicia Johnson Butler, was in court Tuesday along with the family. Becnel took no action on Butler’s request to be added to the case as a defense attorney.

Julie Cullen, who is prosecuting the case for the state attorney general’s office, said the prosecution could take as many as four days to present its case once the trial begins. Burns said the defense would likely take a day to a day and a half.