Reserve man guilty of child’s repeated rape
Published 1:11 pm Friday, September 22, 2023
EDGARD, LA – On Wednesday, a St. John the Baptist Parish Jury handed down a verdict of guilty to the charges of First-Degree Rape, Sexual Battery, and Oral Sexual Battery after a two-day trial. In 2021, Travis J. Vicknair, 39, of Reserve, was indicted by a St. John the Baptist Parish Grand Jury for the rape and sexual battery of two children.
On October 19, 2021, officers were notified by a Saint John the Baptist Parish mother that she suspected her children had been abused by a family member. Detective Katie Evans of the Saint John Sheriff’s Office investigated the case and assisted the children in obtaining services to help them cope with the abuse that her investigation uncovered.
The children were given an opportunity to participate in a forensic interview at the Audrey Hepburn Child Advocacy Center located in New Orleans, LA. During their interviews, the children disclosed the abuses that Vicknair had inflicted upon them. Later, detectives arrested and interrogated Vicknair, who confessed to raping a young boy and sexually abusing a young girl. The siblings were members of the extended family and thought of Vicknair as a grandfather.
During the trial, prosecutors elicited testimony from a number of witnesses, including the two children. The male victim described how Vicknair had repeatedly raped him and how Vicknair had used his mouth and hands to touch the child’s penis. The female victim described how Vicknair touched her genitalia while alone at Vicknair’s home. Both children testified that the abuse had been occurring for years prior to it being discovered.
In addition to the children’s in-court testimony, the jury also heard the statements of the two children that were recorded at the Child Advocacy Center (CAC). The law allows forensic interviews to be shown to a jury when children are the victims of abuse. Sara McLennan, of Austin, Texas, was the certified Forensic Interviewer who met with the children at the CAC and worked to provide them with a safe and secure place to talk about their experiences. McLennan testified Wednesday that she had spoken with over one hundred and twenty local children about their abuses and that she ensured that the interview was performed in a safe, secure, and non-leading method to allow the children to tell their stories.
Dr. Paige Culotta, an expert in Child Abuse Pediatrics and General Pediatrics, explained to the Court that children who are sexually abused often do not immediately disclose the abuse for a number of reasons. She explained that some victims of sexual abuse never tell anyone what has happened to them. Dr. Culotta, who has seen thousands of child abuse victims, further explained that often, when the perpetrator is a family member or a person close to the victim, it can be extremely hard for a victim to come forward or disclose the abuse.
In his closing remarks, Assistant District Attorney J. Philip Prescott, Jr. told the jury that even though the explicit descriptions of sexual abuse were made in children’s words, it was no less true. The prosecutor explained that the testimony of the children, along with that of their mother and the statement of the Defendant, all agreed on the most salient points and that the law and evidence were clear – the only just and fair verdict was guilty as charged. The jury of St. John citizens agreed, and after deliberating for twenty-five minutes, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts.
After the jury rendered its verdict at 7:45 p.m., the prosecutors spoke with the victims and their families yesterday evening. The District Attorney’s Office expressed its ongoing support for the family and their journey to healing. The District Attorney’s Office is proud of these young victims for the courage they displayed throughout the course of this investigation and trial. Without brave men, women, boys, and girls, there can be no justice.
The sentence for the crime of First-Degree Rape is life imprisonment without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. The crimes of Sexual Battery and Oral Sexual Battery both carry penalties of imprisonment for up to the maximum of ninety-nine (99) years. The case has been scheduled for sentencing on October 23, 2023, before Judge Nghana Lewis.
The District Attorney’s Office, under the administration of Bridget A. Dinvaut, did not offer any negotiated plea deal in the case based upon an evaluation and legal analysis of the law, the facts, and the witnesses’ testimony, among other factors. This decision was also made after consulting with the victims and their families.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys J. Philip Prescott, Jr. and Geoffrey Michel of the 40th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Vicknair was represented by private counsel, Anthony “Tony” Angellete.