Cawthorne murder trial abruptly recesses until Monday - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Cawthorne murder trial abruptly recesses until Monday

SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) -

The trial of Roderick Cawthorne Jr. was abruptly recessed Friday afternoon after the defense objected to a DNA expert for the state who was to testify long distance via Skype.

Cawthorne is charged with second-degree murder and obstruction of justice in the death of Charles Raymond Talen Sr.

Talen was found dead in his Lake Arthur home on Feb. 21, 2015. As in all such cases, an attempt was made to find evidence to be tested to determine who may have left their DNA at the scene of the crime.  

DNA expert Leanne Suchanek was to testify via Skype, since she now lives in Ohio, but the defense objected, saying they should have received at least 30 days written notice.

Jeff Davis Special Prosecutor Rick Bryant says whether she's in Jennings or Ohio won't change her testimony.

"It won't be any different from what they would have heard today, but if it makes sure we don't have a mistrial or something like that, we'll go ahead and go for it," said Bryant.

Suchanek is able to be in Jennings on Monday, so the judge recessed court until then. Cawthorne's defense attorneys, Michael McHale and Ginger Vidrine, declined to appear on camera.

In all, 11 people have been arrested in connection with the case, but only two - Cawthorne and another man, Brett Hebert - have been charged with murder.

"Two men waited in ambush outside Mr. Talen's house; they waited 12 to 13 hours," Bryant said. "When he finally came out they attacked him, they beat him up with their fists, they went inside to rob him and they robbed him of probably $100,000 worth of coins from his safe. They took the safe, they took some guns, and they tied him up with duct tape and rope and left him to die."

Several others have been granted immunity.

"We felt their testimony was much more important than convicting them of some minor offense," Bryant said. "Accessory-after-the fact is not minor, but it's not a major crime and we've talked to the family also and they're okay with it."

One of those who testified is 20-year-old Damian Vaughn Robinson, who told about the stolen safe from Talen’s home being thrown off a bridge and shots being fired into it. That was apparently to make it sink in the water.

Robinson is Cawthorne’s cousin. He also testified that he sold Cawthorne the marijuana leaf mask that was found in the car discovered burning in Vermilion Parish. That car was registered to 74-year-old Talen Sr.

Originally investigators said they had recovered 46 one ounce gold coins worth more than $50,000 that were in a safe stolen from Talen's house. According to testimony, those were the coins Cawthorne Jr. had. But according to testimony there were more coins. One co-defendant, Brett "Cowboy" Hebert, claimed to have 30 coins which he buried.  But they have never been located by law enforcement.  Prosecutors say suspect Vaughn Robinson admitted to having ten coins.  Plus, it's believed there may have been other loose coins in the safe, bringing the value in excess of $100,000. Each coin is said to be worth $1,200.

Jurors also heard from Calcasieu Coroner Dr. Terry Welke, who found Talen died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

Hebert testified during Cawthorne's trial. He basically said he participated in the crime for the money but had no wish to see Talen injured or killed. Hebert has said he buried his share of the gold coins, but so far deputies have not been able to find the coins. No word on when Hebert may go to trial or if he had any motive for testifying about his participation in the crimes against Talen.

Cawthorne's trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. Monday.

According to Jeff Davis District Attorney Michael Cassidy, the others arrested and charged in the case are as follows:

  • Brett Daniel Hebert: Second-degree murder and obstruction of justice
  • Damian Vaughn Robinson: Accessory after the fact to second-degree murder and obstruction of justice. He has been granted immunity, according to testimony.
  • Vaughn Dell Robinson: Possession of stolen things over $1,500, accessory after the fact to aggravated burglary and obstruction of justice.
  • Roderick Cawthorne Sr.: Obstruction of justice and possession of stolen things over $1,500.
  • Steven Craig Oliver: Accessory after the fact to aggravated burglary, obstruction of justice, possession of stolen things over $1,500 and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
  • Siearra White: Principal to aggravated burglary.
  • Carlos Demont Daniels: Principal to second-degree murder, principal to aggravated burglary and obstruction of justice.
  • Dawn Lynn Fontenot: Obstruction of justice and accessory after the fact to aggravated burglary.
  • Monique Shone Berry: Obstruction of justice.
  • Marquel Devon Robinson: Charges rejected, according to Cassidy.

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