Lake Charles man sentenced to life for killing man, burning his body

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 1:56 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2022 at 7:10 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Nathaniel Mitchell, 43 III of Lake Charles will spend the rest of his life in prison after his sentence was handed down on Wednesday.

Mitchell will not have the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence after being found guilty on one count of second-degree murder last month.

In 2019, Mitchell shot and killed 29-year-old Zac Burton of Baton Rouge. Burton’s body was burned.

Prosecutors believe Burton was killed to prevent him from testifying about the murder of Cornell Cummings in Baton Rouge.

Calcasieu First Assistant D.A. Jacob Johnson says because of Burton’s death, prosecutors in Baton Rouge could not go forward with a murder trial.

Defense attorney Donald Guidry says it’s a travesty of justice because the state allowed testimony from Mitchell’s codefendant George Buck who is an admitted liar.

“The jury’s decision was based on emotion and not evidence. How could they believe the testimony of a witness who gave three different statements to law enforcement and who testified against my client in return for a lesser sentence. We will appeal this conviction,” said Guidry.

But Johnson says they did not rely on Buck’s testimony alone and that everything he said was corroborated with other evidence.

“Nathaniel MItchell had an extensive relationship with the victim in this case, had known him quite well for quite some time, had extensive phone calls with the victim in this case. The victim in this case slept at the home of Nathaniel Mitchell the night before the homicide and Nathaniel Mitchell left the murder scene with the victim’s cell phone before turning off the victim’s cell phone. The ties between the two were extensive,” said Johnson.

Plus, Johnson says Buck had never met Burton until that weekend. According to testimony during the trial, Buck’s role included pouring gasoline on Burton’s body and burning it in a rural area of DeQuincy.

While on the witness stand, Buck said he followed Mitchell’s order to pour gasoline and set fire to the body because he was afraid of him.

Buck was allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter and is serving a twenty year sentence. Johnson says he believes Buck testified truthfully during the trial.

Guidry says he will appeal Mitchell’s conviction.