'Worst of the worst' hearing delayed, 2 murderers resentenced in Rapides

Daveon McCullough (Source: RPSO)
Daveon McCullough (Source: RPSO)(KALB)
Published: Jul. 27, 2018 at 12:07 PM CDT
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The family of Rita Rabalais, 82 of Alexandria, who was murdered during a gang initiation in 1994 by a group of nine people, will have to wait longer to see if one of the convicted killers could one day be eligible for parole.

Daveon McCullough was 17 at the time of the crime. Rabalais was discovered beaten and stabbed to death in her home on Kelly Street in Alexandria.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that inmates sentenced to life as juveniles must be given a meaningful chance at parole. And, in 2016, the decision became retroactive.

Since then, the family of Rabalais has been fighting to keep McCullough behind bars for good by insisting on a Miller hearing which prevents the "worst of the worst" from getting out.

McCullough was back in court on Friday for a hearing on a series of motions related to that effort. He is being represented by Mummi Ibrahim out of New Orleans, who is taking the case pro bono. But, because McCullough qualifies as indigent, new financial opportunities are now available to him as the case proceeds due to changes within the state legislature that provide money for Miller hearings.

"There has been money dedicated for Miller-Montgomery," said James Dixon, Jr. with the state public defender's office. "I think we will have a process in place by the end of September."

After learning that, Judge Patricia Koch determined that it would be impossible to pull off the Miller hearing by the end of the year as originally planned because McCullough's attorney would need to begin the process of looking for expert witnesses and exploring DNA options.

Several other motions that were supposed to be decided on, including one dealing with aggravating factors of the case and an effort by the defense to limit victim impact statements, are ongoing, although the state said it plans to object to the victim impact motion.

"The state is going to respond," said Catherine Davidson, who will leave the case next week as she begins her campaign for mayor of Alexandria. "We are going to object to exclusion."

The family of Rita Rabalais said the process has been frustrating.

"This is tiring," said James Yarborough, her nephew. "To hear again the money that is going to be put forth by taxpayers to defend this convicted murderer to try and release him early, we're tired and we're upset."

In a similar matter, two other convicted murderers were re-sentenced today by Judge Koch after the state agreed not to push for a Miller hearing.

Thea Johnson was serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1999 beating and stabbing death of her mother, Linda Kile. And, Dwaine Young also had a life without parole sentence for the 1993 shooting death of Peter Rachal. Both have now been re-sentenced to be parole eligible.

Ibrahim said in court that those sentences were still too harsh and she planned on filing additional paperwork to try to get the sentences reduced.