State v. Odenbaugh, NO. 10-KA-0268

CourtLouisiana Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJOHNSON
Docket NumberNO. 10-KA-0268
Decision Date06 December 2011


NO. 10-KA-0268


Dated: December 6, 2011

Supreme Court of Louisiana




The Opinions handed down on the 6th day of December, 2011, are as follows:



STATE OF LOUISIANA v. LEE ROY ODENBAUGH, JR. (Parish of Ouachita) (First Degree Murder; Attempted First Degree Murder)

Justice Clark recused, and Retired Judge Hillary J. Crain sitting ad hoc.

For the reasons assigned herein, defendant's conviction and sentence are affirmed. In the event this judgment becomes final on direct review when either: (1) the defendant fails to petition timely the United States Supreme Court for certiorari; or (2) that Court denies his petition for certiorari; and either (a) the defendant, having filed for and been denied certiorari, fails to petition the United States Supreme Court timely, under its prevailing rules for rehearing of denial of certiorari, or (b) that Court denies his petition for rehearing, the trial judge shall, upon receiving notice from this court under LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 923 of finality on direct appeal, and before signing the warrant of execution, as provided by LSA-R.S. 15:567(B), immediately notify the Louisiana Indigent Defense Assistance board and provide the Board with reasonable time in which: (1) to enroll counsel to represent the defendant in any state post-conviction proceedings, if appropriate, pursuant to its authority under LSA-R.S. 15:149.1; and (2) to litigate expeditiously the claims raised in that original application, if filed, in the state courts. AFFIRMED.

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JOHNSON, Justice*

This matter involves a direct appeal to this Court from a conviction of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first degree murder and a sentence of death. LSA-Const. art. V, § 5(D).

On December 14, 2006, a Morehouse Parish grand jury indicted defendant, Lee Roy Odenbaugh, Jr., for the December 2, 2006 first degree murders of Jessie Mae Porter and Sondra Porter Odenbaugh and attempted first degree murder of Jessica Cooper, in violation of LSA-R.S. 14:27 and 14:30. After counsel was appointed, defendant entered pleas of not guilty.

After a change in venue to Ouachita Parish, jury selection commenced on

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October 27, 2008. The trial commenced on November 3, 2008. On November 5, 2008, the jury returned the unanimous verdict of guilty as charged. After the penalty phase, the jury unanimously recommended a sentence of death for each first degree murder count, finding the offender knowingly created a risk of death or great bodily harm to more than one person, LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 905.4(A)(3). On August 14, 2009, the trial judge imposed the sentence of death in accordance with the jury's verdict.

The defendant now appeals his conviction and death sentence on the basis of thirty-six (36) assignments of error. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the conviction and sentence of the defendant.


On December 2, 2006, Jessica Cooper and her grandmother, Jessie Mae Porter, drove to the trailer at 1209 Summerlin Lane in Batrop, Louisiana, where Jessica lived with her mother, Sondra Porter Odenbaugh, and her step-father, the defendant. When they arrived, Jessie Mae confronted defendant, who was asleep in the bedroom, about work he had failed to complete at her home. An argument ensued and Jessie Mae ultimately left the home, leaving Jessica, Sondra, and defendant inside. An altercation then ensued between defendant and Jessica, who was pregnant at the time, during which defendant burned her with a cigarette. When Sondra yelled to her mother, Jessie Mae, to call the police because defendant was hitting Jessica, Jessie Mae re-entered the trailer with a golf club and swung it at defendant, striking him in the head. After a physical altercation involving everyone present in the trailer, defendant got in his truck and left the scene.

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Officer Chris Releford, of the Bastrop Police Department, arrived after defendant left and briefly interviewed the three women, determining there had been a domestic dispute involving the defendant. Before leaving, the officer issued a call to be on the lookout for the defendant in the area. The three women then loaded some of Sondra and Jessica's possessions into the back of Jessie Mae's truck in preparation to leave the residence. While Jessica was standing at the end of the driveway with defendant's adopted daughter, Melissa Leihr, defendant returned to the scene. Jessica walked toward her grandmother's truck as defendant pulled into the driveway and got out of his truck carrying a shotgun. Melissa grabbed defendant and tried to stop him, but could not. When she asked what he was doing, he told her that he was going to kill "these mf'ers and then kill himself." Defendant then came around the back of the truck to the driver's side where Jessie Mae Porter was sitting, and shot her. Jessica tried to run for cover behind a large tree in the yard. She turned around, at which point defendant shot her in the hip. Defendant then entered the trailer and the discharge of a gun could be heard. After exiting the trailer, defendant again pointed his gun at Jessica, but did not fire. He then fled the scene. At 12:50 p.m., Officer Releford received a call to return to the residence on Summerlin Lane. When he arrived, he saw Jessie Mae Porter, sitting in the driver's seat of her truck with gunshot wounds to her shoulder and chest, had been killed. Jessica Cooper was approximately 30 feet in front of the truck shouting for help. After entering the trailer, Releford observed Sondra Porter lying on the floor with a gunshot wound to the chest. The officer checked for signs of life, and discovered none.

Defendant was apprehended after a high-speed chase through Bastrop, during

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which he made two stops. At defendant's first stop, near his parent's home, he was found standing outside of his truck holding a shotgun. After a standoff with police, defendant got back into his truck and drove off. Defendant then drove to Faith Baptist Church on Cleveland Street. During this stop, defendant exited the vehicle, pointed his shotgun at himself, and threatened to kill himself. After another standoff, defendant grabbed his gun, got back into his truck, and drove off again. The officers then chased defendant to his mother's home on Capella St., where defendant ran inside.

While inside the home, defendant spoke to Lieutenant Chris Balsamo via telephone. During the conversation, defendant told Balsamo that he had just shot three people and that he was not going to jail. Defendant also told Balsamo that he wanted some cigarettes, so Balsamo promised to get him some if he would come out of the home. After some discussion, Officer Ron Lara took cigarettes to the front door of the home. When defendant opened the door, the two spoke for a moment and Lara dropped the cigarettes on the ground. As defendant tried to shut the door, Lara rushed in and tried to subdue him. With assistance from Lieutenant Balsamo and Lieutenant Scott Culp, defendant was subdued and taken into custody. At his trial, Defendant testified that the night before the shootings he and Sondra had shared a quarter ounce of cocaine and emptied defendant's prescription bottle of Klonopin, an anti-seizure, anti-anxiety medication. Defendant estimated that he consumed "[m]aybe forty" tabs of the drug. On the following morning, the argument with Jessie Mae occurred in the kitchen of the trailer he and Sondra were renting. Defendant recalled that Jessie Mae swung at him two or three times with a six iron golf club,

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striking him on top of his head. Defendant backed out of the kitchen into the bedroom of the trailer, retrieved the keys to his vehicle, wiped the blood off of his head with a sheet, and left the trailer, retreating to his mother's home. Defendant recalled shooting both Jessie Mae and Jessica Cooper when he returned to his trailer. He testified that he shot Jessica after she got out of Jessie Mae Porter's truck and appeared to be heading for the same six iron that Jessie Mae had used to continue the assault on him. It also appeared to defendant that Jessie Mae was preparing to back her truck over him, so he shot her. However, defendant did not recall walking into the trailer and firing his shotgun into the chest of his wife.



Defense counsel contends that the trial court failed to assess defendant's competency to stand trial. Defense counsel argues that defendant was not competent to stand trial due to severe mental illness, and the trial court failed to stay the proceedings to evaluate his competency, despite reasonable grounds to do so.

The Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause protects an individual's right not to proceed to trial while legally incompetent. See, Medina v. California, 505 U.S. 437, 449, 112 S.Ct. 2572, 2579, 120 L.Ed.2d 353, 365-66 (1992) (quoting Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162,...

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