Vernier on trial for Israeli man's death - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Vernier on trial for Israeli man's death

By Theresa Schmidt

A five year wait is over.Today is day one of the trial of Jonathan Vernier, charged in a carjacking and killing of an Israeli man in Southwest Louisiana. The jury is seated and testimony is underway.  The disappearance of Ran Mesika, and what presumably happened to the Israeli student and jewelry seller is beginning to unfold in Lake Charles Federal Court. His best friend describes him as stable, trustworthy, optimistic, popular, a good person.  Authorities believe he died in southwest louisiana at the hands of prison escapee Jonathan Venier who allegedly carjacked his van and killed him.

U.S. Attorney Donald Washington says the details will be revealed as the trial progresses.  "In 2003 an Israeli student while traversing the United States picked him (Vernier) up as a hitchhiker and moved along I-10 at some point..We accused Mr. Vernier of carjacking; ie taking the van in which the Israeli student was riding, taking it from him and killing him. So, this case is about carjacking, resulting in death." If convicted, Vernier could get life in prison. Mesika's body has never been found. 

 Testimony got underway with five witnesses close to Ran Mesika who portrayed him as a devoted friend and son who was in almost constant communication with those closest to him as he traveled the country involved in the sale of jewelry. They say he would not simply disappear and presume he's dead. And many were involved in the lengthy search for  Mesika after his disappearance. Court wrapped up earlier than usual when Mesika's father became choked up while testifying about phone and credit card records; about a dozen family and witnesses are here from Israel for the trial. All involved have been instructed not to talk to anyone about the case.

Earlier, before jury selection it came out that Vernier tried to escape from the Calcasieu jail this weekend....A deputy federal marshal testified this morning that they consider Vernier "absolutely a risk as far as escape."

Marshal Beau Bartel testified that Bernier has said"he won't die an old man in prison...that he would go out in a bloody confrontation, even if he has to kill someone he's going to go home..."

The trial resumes at 9 am tomorrow morning.

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