NEW ORLEANS – A jury has found Tyrone Wells guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of a Gentilly restaurant owner in 2003.
The second-degree murder conviction brings an automatic life sentence.
Following the announcement of the verdict, jurors were polled to make sure this was their decision. The poll confirmed the unanimous verdict.
The much-delayed case in the killing of Jose Vazquez had a mistrial in March of this year when a jury couldn’t reach a decision.
"We've been waiting for this for a long time: six and a half years. And really at last everything came together," said Jose Vazquez Sr.. "We got a lot of people to work very hard, because the family wait for this moment. They worked for this moment, and they get it."
Prosecutors said Wells killed Vazquez during a robbery attempt, though the defense said Vazquez was killed as Wells was defending himself during a fight over a debt Vazquez owed him.
Vazquez's wife said her husband, whom she called her soul mate, is now able to rest in peace.
“He was a wonderful, hardworking, loving family man who would have done anything for anyone at any time,” said Kimberly Vazquez. “We fought, we didn’t give up, and we got here.”
This trial was also not without its share of strange events, as six days into testimony, Judge Arthur Hunter recused himself due to what he said was a distant relationship with the defendant.
The Louisiana Supreme Court denied Hunter’s recusal and had him finish the case. Tuesday night a juror left the case and had to be replaced, so deliberations started over.
The formal sentencing for Wells is scheduled for Feb. 26.