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Pasco jury in Luc Pierre-Charles' murder trial won't see video

Luc Pierre-Charles, 21, center, talks with defense attorneys Richard Watts, left, and Lane Lastinger in court on Thursday. 

KERI WIGINTON | Times

Luc Pierre-Charles, 21, center, talks with defense attorneys Richard Watts, left, and Lane Lastinger in court on Thursday. 

DADE CITY — In a cramped, brightly lit interview room at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, Andre Pierre-Charles and his parents discussed the murders of two teenagers.

With tempers wearing thin, Andre told his parents again and again that he wanted to go home. He had said all he had to say. He wasn't going to take a lie detector test.

It was August 2006, a few weeks after two Wesley Chapel teenagers had been found executed on a dirt road in Trilby. Detectives suspected Andre's brother, Luc, and were questioning Andre, who denied involvement, about what he knew.

The detectives left the room for a few minutes, but the videotape kept running.

"I didn't kill nobody," Andre told his parents. "I already told you that."

Then, in a hushed voice, his father asked him straight: "Who did it? Luc?"

"I don't believe that," his mother interjected.

But then Andre, who had been slumped over a table, lifted his head and nodded.

"Oh Lord! Oh Jesus!" Angela Pierre-Charles cried, cradling her face in her hand.

That exchange was played in court Thursday during Luc Pierre-Charles' first-degree murder trial. But the jury never saw it. The judge determined that it was hearsay, not admissible evidence.

Prosecutors wanted to play it for jurors to help build their case for a conviction. The state is seeking the death penalty.

The trial got under way in earnest on Thursday after three days of jury selection. Pierre-Charles faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Derek Pieper and Raymond Veluz, who were both students at Wesley Chapel High School. They had left a party to buy marijuana and ended up dead, officials said.

Pierre-Charles killed them, prosecutors say, to protect his drug trade.

Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia told jurors in his opening argument that witnesses to be called by the state will testify that Pierre-Charles, now 21, confided in them about what he did.

"He had taken these boys out on Harris Hill Road, (had them) get down on their knees and pray, and emptied his clip," Garcia said.

But defense attorney Richard Watts depicted a brewing conflict involving many more people. He mentioned Jeremy Henry, a known criminal and drug dealer in east Pasco, who was identified as a suspect and person of interest in the case early on. Henry was later killed.

Prosecutors have also charged Tyree Jenkins in the deaths of Pieper and Veluz. He awaits trial.

Without ever specifically saying that Pierre-Charles is not guilty, Watts said the state has no physical evidence against him — no fingerprints, no murder weapon.

And he said the state's witnesses are mostly "snitches" of questionable credibility whose stories have frequently changed over time.

The state then began calling witnesses. Pieper's girlfriend said she saw Pieper when he got off work that night and then was unable to reach him.

Veluz's mother said she was home with Veluz watching TV when he got a phone call and left.

"He said he'd be back," Maria Dejon said.

About 3 the next afternoon, sheriff's detectives notified her that he was dead.

Pasco jury in Luc Pierre-Charles' murder trial won't see video 03/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 9:15pm]
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