Dustin Parra enters ‘no contest’ plea to negligent homicide, sentenced to five years
AVOYELLES PARISH, La. (KALB) - On Sunday, March 26, 2023, Dustin Parra, 39 of Pineville, entered a nolo contendere (no contest) plea to a count of negligent homicide and was sentenced to five years in prison.
The plea stems from the June 28, 2014 death of Parra’s wife, Megan Ducote Parra, 29. The mother of two died of a gunshot wound inside the couple’s home in Cottonport. Her death was initially ruled a suicide until 2021, when the case was re-investigated and Dustin Parra was indicted by a grand jury on a charge of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.
Parra, who was represented by defense attorney George Higgins, initially pleaded not guilty to the charges and was set to begin trial on Monday, March 27. But, on Sunday, Parra entered a nolo contendere plea to the lesser charge of negligent homicide - a charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years and is considered a non-violent offense. Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle agreed to not prosecute the obstruction of justice charge and it was dismissed.
In order to plead nolo contendere, Parra had to agree to admit to certain facts of the case set by Riddle:
- Parra admitted that his marriage was struggling.
- Parra admitted that on the morning of June 28, 2014, he and Megan were arguing, and she threatened to leave.
- Parra admitted that while arguing he had a pistol in his hand, and in a struggle, the gun went off and a bullet hit her.
- Parra admitted that he then left the house and only came back after Megan’s father called him to come back.
Parra agreed to these facts in court by responding, “Yes, I am not contesting as part of the nolo contendere plea.”
After officially entering a nolo contendere plea and admitting the facts of the case, Parra was sentenced by Judge Kerry Spruill and agreed to waive his rights to an appeal. Parra’s sentence is set to begin on April 27, and if he is released early, he will serve the remaining time on parole.
While a nolo contendere plea is not considered a guilty plea, Riddle stated in an interview with KALB after court had adjourned that it was similar.
“It’s the equivalent. He admitted to all the facts that we needed him to in order for it to be negligent homicide.”
Riddle also stated that the plea was accepted with the blessing of the Ducote family.
“We would not have accepted any plea agreement without the family in this case agreeing.”
While reluctant to go on camera, several family members and friends of Megan who were present at the courthouse told KALB they are unsatisfied with the five year sentence.
Higgins also gave KALB a statement after court had adjourned, saying that the nolo contendere plea was the best option for both parties.
“A nolo contendere or no contest plea in this tragedy is an effort to do what we feel was best in the interest of the minor children, who both Dustin and the Ducote family share as surviving parent and grandparents. And, in respect to both hurting families, I have no further comment.”
In a bit of an unusual move, the Avoyelles Parish Courthouse was opened on Sunday specifically for this case. Riddle explained that the plea negotiations began on Friday, and that the plea and sentencing took place on Sunday in an effort to notify jurors that the trial was not going to take place on Monday.
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