Four people sentenced for roles in 2014 death of James Stephens - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Four people sentenced for roles in 2014 death of James Stephens

Jose Israel Ayala III (Source: Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office) Jose Israel Ayala III (Source: Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office)
Cassandra Ward (Source: Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office) Cassandra Ward (Source: Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office)
Robert Vincent Worth (Source: Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office) Robert Vincent Worth (Source: Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office)
Matthew David Andrews (Source: Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office) Matthew David Andrews (Source: Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office)
LEESVILLE, LA (KPLC) -

Four people were sentenced Thursday morning in Leesville for their roles in the 2014 killing of James Stephens.

Jose Israel Ayala III, 27, of New Llano, was sentenced to 40 years hard labor for manslaughter, 40 years hard labor for obstruction of justice, and an additional 10 years hard labor for attempted aggravated escape. The sentences are to be served consecutively, said Vernon Parish District Attorney Asa Skinner.

Cassandra Ward, 25, of Leesville, was sentenced to 30 years hard labor for obstruction of justice.

Matthew David Andrews, 28, of New Llano, was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years hard labor for obstruction of justice.

Robert Vincent Worth, 25, of Leesville, was sentenced to 5 years hard labor for accessory after the fact, and 7 years hard labor for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute; the sentences will be served concurrently for a total of 7 years, said Skinner.

The state contends that in March 2014 James Stephens visited the home of Cassandra Ward looking for Ward's mother, who wasn't home at the time, said Assistant D.A. Ronald Seastrunk.

Stephens, standing outside the home, got into an argument with Ward, who remained inside. Also inside the home was Jose Ayala, who walked outside to confront Stephens. Ayala shot and killed Stephens with what is believed to be an assault rifle, said Seastrunk.

Ayala then called Matthew Andrews and asked him to bring shovels. Andrews showed up with shovels, and he, Ayala, and Ward took Stephens' body to a wooded area outside New Lllano and buried Stephens in a shallow grave.

Ayala and Ward tried to clean the murder scene afterward. The pair also returned to Stephens' burial site to dig up his body and remove his clothes. Ayala and Ward took Stephens' clothes to Robert Worth's property to burn them, said Seastrunk.

Ayala instructed Ward to get rid of the shovels used to bury Stephens, along with the assault rifle. Ward took the shovels to Spring, Texas, where she hid them behind a restaurant dumpster. Authorities later found the shovels, but the gun hasn't been found, said Seastrunk. 

Ward eventually revealed information on the murder to a family member, who contacted Louisiana State Police, who then contacted the Vernon Sheriff's Office.

Matthew Andrews also later came forward and led the Sheriff's Office to Stephens' body.

Copyright 2017 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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