DONALDSONVILLE, LA (WAFB) - A man accused of killing his 12-year-old step-daughter in 2014 pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of second-degree murder.
The 23rd Judicial District Court reported John Celestine Jr., 47, of St. James, entered the plea just days before the start of the trial into the murder of Talaija Dorsey.
Celestine was initially charged with first-degree murder. If convicted of first-degree murder, Celestine could have faced the death penalty. Instead, he was sentenced to life in prison by Judge Alvin Turner. A conviction of second-degree murder in Louisiana results in a mandatory life sentence.
Celestine was the fiance of Dorsey’s mother.
The girl’s body was found at the edge of a sugarcane field in Vacherie on July 6, 2014. She had been missing since July 1, 2014. Celestine was initially arrested on charges of felony obstruction of justice and false reports or communications the day after Dorsey was last seen.
Just days before her body was found, investigators announced they were focusing their search along the route that Celestine took to work, specifically LA 3127, the same highway where Dorsey's body was found.
The FBI, Louisiana State Police, and several sheriff’s offices began searching areas where Celestine may have been. St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin said Celestine also liked to fish and there is a large canal near where the girl’s body was located.
Officials reported the investigation showed Celestine lured the girl from home, sexually assaulted her, murdered her, and then dumped her body. They added the girl’s exact cause of death was never determined due to the condition of her body.