Teen convicted of 1994 murder of Rita Rabalais now eligible for parole consideration

Daveon McCullough, 45, was supposed to head to court this week for a hearing in the case
Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 4:13 PM CST
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RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - One of the nine defendants who was convicted in connection to the Oct. 24, 1994, beating and stabbing death of Rita Rabalais, 82, of Alexandria, is now eligible for parole consideration. Rabalais’ family told News Channel 5 the news came as a surprise.

Daveon McCullough, 45, is serving life in prison at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He was 17 when Rabalais was killed in her Kelly Street home.

In October 1999, McCullough was convicted of the lesser charge of second-degree murder and automatically sentenced to life in prison without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. He had been charged with first-degree murder.

But, in 2012, the law changed. The U.S. Supreme Court in two landmark cases, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, ruled that juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison must have a meaningful chance at parole. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the decision was retroactive in another landmark case, Montgomery v. Louisiana, putting McCullough’s case back in the spotlight. The ruling meant that McCullough was entitled to a chance to be resentenced.

The Rabalais family had been pushing for a special hearing, called a Miller-Montgomery hearing, to determine if McCullough is among the “worst of the worst” who should not be resentenced. On Sept. 21, 2022, that hearing was finally granted by Judge Patricia Koch and scheduled for March 20-22, 2023. Ahead of that hearing, another hearing was scheduled for this week to consider the allowance of gang-related testimony, among other matters, for the Miller-Montgomery hearing.

Last Friday, in a surprise move, Assistant District Attorney Brian Mosley filed a document: “Joint Motion to Amend Defendant’s Sentence to Include and Reflect Parole Eligibility.” That document reflected that an agreement had been reached with McCullough’s post-conviction attorneys - Charles Connolly, Allison Coffin, and Madeline Bardi of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Carol Kolinchak of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights - that granted him parole eligibility. That canceled the hearings scheduled and resolved matters with the case.

“The parties show that they have agreed that the sentence of the defendant shall now reflect that he is to serve a sentence of life imprisonment, with the possibility of being granted parole consideration. Any such determinations regarding the defendant’s eligibility for parole consideration shall be governed by the statutory authority granted to the Louisiana State Parole Board concerning all cases which appear for relief before that body. The parties further show that it will not be necessary for this court to hold a hearing to determine the issue of defendant’s parole eligibility.”

Joint Motion to Amend Defendant’s Sentence to Include and Reflect Parole Eligibility (Filed by: State of Louisiana and Daveon McCullough)

Judge Koch signed off on the agreement. The decision keeps McCullough behind bars but makes him eligible to try for parole.

News Channel 5 spoke with Rabalais’ niece, Sharon Yarbrough, who told us the family was surprised by the news that the hearings were canceled and of McCullough’s parole eligibility. Yarbrough said the family got a call from the victim’s advocate at the DA’s Office on Friday and were of the understanding that a different judge would be joining the case and that they would be getting a letter in the mail about it.

We reached out to the DA’s Office for an interview with District Attorney Phillip Terrell. We got a call back from his First ADA, Monica Doss. Doss said the victim’s advocate relayed the message about the parole eligibility and emphasized that the office had since spoken to the family to explain the decision.

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