Bayou Goula man convicted of murder


An jury deliberated for just over three hours Friday before finding Wendell Wesley, 22, of Bayou Goula guilty in the 2007 shooting death of his neighbor, James Bethley, 41, District Attorney Richard J. “Ricky” Ward Jr. reported.

After a two-day trial, the jury deliberated from 2:56 p.m. until 6:08 p.m. before finding Wesley guilty of second-degree murder, Ward said.

District Judge Alvin Batiste Jr., who presided over the 18th Judicial District Court trial, set sentencing for May 11. Second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence, the district attorney said.

Wesley was accused in the shooting death of his neighbor, 41-year-old James Bethley, at Wesley's residence on Cpl. Herman Brown Street on February 3, 2007. (The DA's office listed Wesley's current address as 56690 Church Street, Bayou Goula.)

The shooting apparently stemmed from an argument over money Wesley claimed Bethley owed him, Iberville Sheriff's Office Chief of Detectives Blair Favaron said at the time.

Wesley ran from the scene, but turned himself in several hours later for arrest on second-degree murder charges, Favaron said. An Iberville Parish grand jury indicted him on the same charge two months later.

Assistant District Attorney Dana Larpenteur and Chief Felony Prosecutor Antonio “Tony” Clayton prosecuted the case for Ward's office. Joe Dupont Jr. represented Wesley.

Not long after the verdict, deputies were dispatched to a “battery in progress” on Cpl. Herman Brown, and arrested Lola Wesley, 34, of 53630 Cpl. Herman Brown, on charges of aggravated battery and damage to property.

“It appears that some of the opposing factions were arguing about the verdict and got into it,” Chief Criminal Deputy Stephen Engolio said. He said at least three people were involved.

Lola Wesley is accused of hitting a man's car and hitting the man in the forearm with a pipe, the chief deputy said.

After the fight, the Sheriff's Office stepped up patrols in Bayou Goula, he said.

“It's a small community. The victim was from down there, and the convicted murderer was from down there,” Engolio said. “These people were pretty good friends before all this happened.”