NEW ORLEANS -- A man who as a teenager was named a suspect in the fatal shooting of a pizza-delivery driver and robbery of a woman in Uptown hours earlier pleaded guilty Tuesday to those crimes.
Rendell Brown, 19, was arrested on counts of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Domino’s Pizza driver Richard “Chris” Yeager in September 2014, as well as two counts of armed robbery. As part of a plea deal, he pleaded guilty to an amended charge of manslaughter; the robbery counts remained.
Under the terms of the agreement, Orleans Parish Criminal District Judge Byron C. Williams sentenced Brown to 40 years in prison with credit for time served since his arrest the day after Yeager was slain.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Yeager’s parents lamented how they were not able to say good-bye to their son.
"I realize the Bible tells to forgive. However, forgiveness and compassion are two concepts that I have not been able to consider yet," William Yeager, Chris Yeager's father, told the court. "I have wondered how much compassion the defendants displayed when they decided to commit this terrible act."
"Our family bares scars that will never fade and holes in our hearts that will never heal," Ann Yeager told Brown. "Because of a choice you made, you not only destroyed my child's life, but you destroyed your own as well."
Brown and his accomplice, Shane Hughes, were 16 when they were arrested for Yeager’s killing.
Yeager, a 35-year-old Hunstville, Alabama, native was a French Quarter karaoke DJ who was working a second job as a delivery driver when he was killed Sept. 22, 2014, in the 2800 block of St. Louis Street in Mid-City.
The Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office said Yeager was shot 10 times before he was left to die in the middle of the street.
His Toyota Corolla was stolen after the shooting and was found later in Gert Town after a hit-and-run accident. Brown and Hughes were arrested hours later.
Police noted at the time they had criminal histories and wore electronic monitoring devices when Yeager was shot.
Homicide Detective Wayne DeLarge testified during a hearing at juvenile court in the days after the arrest that police developed Brown as a suspect when a tracking signal from his ankle monitor put him at the scene of the crime.
Based on that evidence, DeLarge obtained a warrant and found both teens together when he served it later that day. The teens tried to escape but were caught, DeLarge testified at that hearing.
After being arrested, Hughes implicated himself in the crime during an interview with police, DeLarge said.
"He said he saw the pizza man get shot," he testified. "He also placed himself inside the victim's car."
DeLarge said forensic investigators were examining Yeager's car to try to find fingerprints and DNA evidence. However, he said, one piece of evidence already had been recovered from the vehicle: a T-shirt from Cohen College Prep High, where both teens were enrolled.
Police also connected the pair to prior armed robbery.
Brown and Hughes were transferred from juvenile court to adult court days after their arrests, a decision District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said he fully supported considering the severity of the crime.
“Violent offenders such as these do not deserve to be freed upon our streets simply by virtue of reaching their 21st birthday, which is the limit of the juvenile courts' purview,” he said in a prepared statement.
Hughes, who has not gone to trial, is scheduled to appear in court on March 23.