COVINGTON, La. COVINGTON, La. A jury took about six hours to convict two men of killing four people in a Slidell mobile home in 2006.
Jurors found 28-year-old Kelvin Kaigler and 42-year-old James Bishop guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in a case that rode largely on the word of a man who said he went with the suspects to the scene where they were going to try to collect a drug debt.
Four people died of close-range gunshot wounds inside the trailer located in the Country Club Mobile Home Park near Slidell: 36-year old Roxanne Agoglia, her fiance, 40-year old Eric Perreand, their 16-year old daughter, Erica Agoglia and Perreand's 15-year old nephew, Andrew Perreand. Prosecutors showed jurors brutal crime scene pictures of all four victims during the five-day trial, and during closing arguments.
'We are obviously very pleased with the jury's decision,' St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain said Friday night, shortly after the decision was reached.
Both Kaigler and Bishop now face mandatory life in prison sentences.
'This was an extremely difficult case,' St. Tammany District Attorney's Spokesman Rick Wood said Friday night. Jurors deliberated for six and a half hours before reaching their verdict.
With no DNA evidence, no fingerprints, and no solid eyewitness testimony, prosecutors relied largely on the testimony of 33-year old Frank Knight.
In his testimony, Knight said he drove with Kaigler and Bishop to the Roxanne Agoglia's trailer, and waited outside while Kaigler and Bishop went inside to collect a drug debt. Kaigler and Bishop are both admitted drug dealers. Testimony also identified Agoglia as a drug dealer. Knight then testified he heard six shots.
'The evidence in this case was centered around the admissions of one of the perpetrators, Frank Knight,' Rick Wood said. In his closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Scott Gardner admitted to the jury, his case revolved around Knight's testimony. In his portion of closing arguments, fellow prosecutor Harold Bartholomew told jurors, when Knight was confronted by investigators in July of 2007, he broke down and cried, and admitted to his role in the murders.
A week before the trial began, Knight pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to murder and distribution of cocaine. Under the plea deal, he agreed to a sentence of 15-35 years in prison.
'There's not a single reason he would make that up and spend those years in the penitentiary,' Gardner told jurors.
'The jury was satisfied with his testimony,' Rick Wood said of Frank Knight. 'We believe he was credible and truthful during his two hours on the witness stand.'
Kaigler's attorney, Martin Regan delivered a rapid fire 58-minute closing argument discrediting Knight and all other prosecution witnesses.
Regan urged jurors not to be swayed by emotion, 'Call the shots bases on the fact and law,' he said early in his closing statement.
'The only question is identity,' Regan told jurors, as he mentioned a series of other men well known in the Slidell area drug trade who fit witness descriptions. He also pointed out inconsistencies and falsehoods in eyewitness testimony as well as Frank Knight's testimony. 'If you find a reasonable doubt with identity,' Regan said, 'you must find not guilty.'
Regan ended his arguments by telling jurors, 'Please don't let it be said that these fellows cannot get a fair trial in St. Tammany Parish.'
While much of the testimony centered around Kaigler, known as 'Dreds' for his hairstyle, Bishop was seldom mentioned. For 33 minutes, Bishop's attorney, John Lindner went through each state witness, saying no one contributed anything to the case against James Bishop, except Frank Knight. He said Knight only implicated Bishop and Kaigler to avoid a life sentence as a multiple offender. 'James Bishop was not even mentioned in this case until July 2007,' Lindner told jurors.
Deliberations began at 12:30pm. The jury reached its verdict around 7:00pm.
'I want to thank the men and women who served on this jury,' Sheriff Strain said Friday night. 'In 14 years as Sheriff, I have never seen a case tried (from both sides) with such passion and spirit. The job these jurors had to do was enormously difficult, and I am proud of their determination to ensure our justice system worked the way in which it was intended.'