Victims: Ida Voiselle, 72, and Ruby Voiselle Smith, 63
Age at time of murders: 17
Crime location: Alexandria
Crime date: September 1, 1985
Crimes: Home invasion, rape, & double murder
Weapon: Cypress knee doorstop
Murder method: Beating
Sentence: Death, later reduced to life without parole (LWOP)
Incarceration status: Incarcerated
Ruby and Ida were sisters and lived across the street from one another. They often spent the night at Ruby’s home. It was at Ruby’s home where the sisters were attacked and butchered in 1985. Comeaux invaded the home and beat them to death with a doorstop. The 17-year-old home-invader also raped Ruby. Comeaux was convicted and sentenced to death but his sentence was reversed and another penalty hearing was held. The second jury, upon considering Comeaux’s youth and mental retardation, unanimously recommended the death penalty. Comeaux was sentenced to death but re-sentenced to life at hard labor with no parole after the Supreme Court prohibited the death penalty for intellectually disabled offenders in Atkins v. Virginia. After Miller v. Alabama, Comeaux got another sentencing hearing and was sentenced to LWOP. His sentence was upheld.
State v. Comeaux
The victims in this case, sixty-three year old Ida Voiselle and seventy-two year old Ruby Voiselle Smith, were sisters and lived across the street from each other, at 725 Scott Street and 716 Scott Street respectively, in Alexandria. Miss Voiselle would often spend the night with Mrs. Smith at Mrs. Smith’s home. On August 31, 1985, at about 8:30 p.m., Mrs. Edla Hess, the sister of Ida Voiselle and Ruby Smith, called and spoke to Ruby Smith, at which time she learned that Ida Voiselle would spend the night in Ruby Smith’s residence. The next morning, at about 9:00 a.m., Mrs. Hess called to check on her sisters. Receiving no answer at the home of either sister, Edla Hess went over to check on them. When, after repeated knocking, neither sister answered her door, Edla Hess called the Alexandria Police Department to come and investigate the welfare of her two sisters.
Upon arrival, the police checked the house of Ruby Smith and noticed bloodstains on the rear door. They also found that the side window screen of the house had been torn and removed and that the window pane was broken with pieces of broken glass on the ground. The police noted blood on pieces of the broken glass pane still attached to the window. The police thereupon entered the Smith home through the rear door. In the dining room, they found the body of Ida Voiselle, face *87 down in a pool of blood. A short distance away, next to the bed in the front left bedroom, they found the almost completely nude body of Ruby Smith lying face up in a pool of blood. After the two bodies were preliminarily examined by the coroner, and after hair samples and rape kits were taken from the victims’ bodies by crime scene investigators, the bodies were removed to Shreveport for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist determined that the cause of death for both victims was multiple traumatic injuries to the head and body received as a result of beating with a heavy, blunt object (later determined to be a cypress knee doorstop), resulting in shock and rapid blood loss. Additionally, in Ruby Smith, there was evidence of recent intercourse, ejaculation, and trauma to the genitalia probably resulting from the insertion of a flat, blunt instrumentality into the vagina.
The rape kits performed on the victims revealed non-secretor (i.e., non-blood group specific) seminal acid phosphatase and spermatozoa present on the vaginal swab of Ruby Smith. The sex crime suspect kit performed upon defendant indicated that he was a type-O non-secretor, consistent with the sperm found in Ruby Smith. Hair samples found on Mrs. Smith and at the scene of the crime possessed the same characteristics as those of the hair of defendant.
Pursuant to their investigation of the crime scene, the police officers took blood samples from the broken window pane, a gray oil drum used to gain access to the window, a washer and a dryer underneath the window inside the house, and a metal cabinet next to the washer and the dryer. The blood found on the oil drum and the metal cabinet was determined to be consistent with the blood type and characteristics of defendant. Latent fingerprints lifted from the broken glass from the window pane and from the dryer matched the fingerprints of defendant. Finally, footprints found in the pool of blood surrounding Ida Voiselle exactly matched one of a pair of tennis shoes seized from defendant.
At about 6:30 a.m. on September 1, 1985, defendant walked up to the cab of Michael Leroy Shafer at a bus station near the homes of the victims and requested to be taken to another bus station across town. Shafer drove defendant, who identified himself as “Adam,” to the bus station, but the bus station was closed. Defendant then requested that Shafer drive him to Opelousas. On the trip to Opelousas, Shafer noticed that defendant had four cut marks on his lower right arm. Shafer also noticed that defendant appeared very nervous and kept looking behind the cab during the trip to Opelousas. Upon arriving in Opelousas, defendant asked Shafer to drive him to his home in Leonville.
Later that night, Shafer, after hearing of the murders on Scott Street, notified the authorities of the details of the ride. The next day, September 2, 1985, Shafer led Detectives Cicardo and Kitchen of the Alexandria Police Department and members of the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s office and the Leonville Police to the residence where he had dropped off defendant. The police were met by John Comeaux, defendant’s father, who told them that his son Adam had arrived by cab the previous morning with cuts on his arm. Comeaux then told them defendant could be found at his brother’s house down the road. Upon locating defendant, the police requested that he come with them. Defendant agreed and was taken to the Leonville City Hall.
After giving defendant his rights and advising him that he was not under arrest and was free to go at any time, the police attempted to question him. However, defendant was reluctant with his parents looking on in the relatively open City Hall and requested to be taken somewhere more private for questioning. Defendant was then taken to the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s office in Opelousas. At 8:08 p.m., defendant was again advised of his rights at the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s office, at which he signed a rights waiver form and gave a recorded statement concerning the two homicides. The statement was vague, but defendant admitted breaking into the house and hitting the two women. Pursuant *88 to this information, warrants for the arrest of defendant were issued and sent by teletype to the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s office. Defendant was formally arrested, read his rights, and booked at the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s office. Defendant was then transported to the Alexandria City jail where he was again advised of his rights and rebooked at 1:04 a.m. on September 3, 1985. Defendant indicated that he would give a statement in the morning. At 8:00 a.m. that morning, defendant, after again being advised of his rights, signed another rights waiver form and gave a detailed statement concerning the murders of Ida Voiselle and Ruby Smith. In a lineup later that morning, defendant was positively identified by Shafer as the person he had taken to Leonville. Defendant was then removed to the Rapides Parish Prison.
STATE v. COMEAUX
The victims were two sisters, sixty-three-year-old Ida Voiselle and seventy-two-year-old Ruby Voiselle Smith, who lived in Alexandria. A third sister requested the police to check on them after they failed to respond to telephone calls and knocking on their door.
Upon arrival, the police found bloodstains on the rear door, a side window screen torn and removed, and a broken window pane with pieces of glass on the ground. There was blood on the pieces of the broken glass pane still attached to the window. In the dining room, they found Voiselle’s body, face down in a pool of blood. A short distance away, in a bedroom next to the bed, they found the almost completely nude body of Smith, lying face up in a pool of blood.
At about 6:30 a.m. on the day of the murder, a cab driver drove defendant from a bus station near the crime scene to another bus station, which was closed. Defendant then requested to be driven to Opelousas. The driver noticed that defendant had four cut marks on his lower right arm and appeared very nervous, continually looking behind the cab during the trip. Upon arriving in Opelousas, defendant asked the driver to take him to his home in Leonville.
Later that night, the cab driver, after hearing of the murders, notified the police of the details of the trip to Leonville. The next day, the driver led police officers to the residence where he had taken defendant. Upon locating defendant, the police requested that he come with them to headquarters, which he agreed to do.
Advised of his rights and that he was not under arrest and free to go at any time, defendant signed a rights waiver form and gave a recorded statement concerning the two homicides. In the vague statement, he admitted breaking into the house and hitting the two women. Defendant was then arrested.
Two days later, defendant, after again being advised of his rights, signed another rights waiver form and gave a detailed statement concerning the two murders. In a lineup later that morning, the cab driver positively identified defendant as the person he had taken to Leonville.
A pathologist determined that the cause of death for both victims was multiple traumatic injuries to the head and body received as the result of a beating with a heavy, blunt object (later determined to be a cypress knee doorstop), resulting in shock and rapid blood loss. Additionally, Smith’s body revealed evidence of recent intercourse, ejaculation, and trauma to the genitalia.
Testing of rape kits revealed that the rapist was a Type O non-secretor, as was defendant. Hair samples found on Smith’s body and at the scene possessed the same characteristics as defendant’s hair.
Blood samples taken from an oil drum that was used to gain access to the window and from a metal cabinet near the window were determined to be consistent with defendant’s blood type and characteristics. Latent fingerprints lifted from the broken glass on the window pane and from the dryer matched defendant’s fingerprints. Finally, footprints found in the pool of blood surrounding Voiselle’s body exactly matched one from a pair of tennis shoes seized from defendant.
STATE OF LOUISIANA VERSUS ADAM COMEAUX
The victims, Smith and Voiselle, were sisters. They lived across the street from one another and often spent the night together at Smith’s home. In 1985, the Defendant entered Smith’s home and beat Smith, who was sixty-three years old, and Voiselle, who was seventy-two years old, with a cypress knee doorstop. Smith and Voiselle suffered multiple traumatic injuries to the head and body, resulting in shock, rapid blood loss, and death. Additionally, Smith exhibited evidence of recent intercourse, ejaculation, and trauma to the genitalia, “probably resulting from the insertion of a flat, blunt instrumentality into the vagina.” Comeaux, 514 So.2d at 87. The Defendant was seventeen years old and mildly mentally retarded at the time he committed the crimes. Comeaux, 699 So.2d at 25
STATE v. COMEAUX
As noted, the first trial resulted in a conviction of first degree murder and a sentence of death, but the sentence was reversed. At the second penalty hearing, the prosecutor presented, in addition to the evidence relating to the murders of the two sisters, evidence of the following unrelated crimes:
1. A similar rape and murder of an elderly woman in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which occurred a week prior to the murders in this case and had not been adjudicated;
2. An aggravated burglary in Lake Charles two years before the murder, which had not been adjudicated; and
3. An attempted forcible rape committed three years earlier when defendant was fourteen years old and for which defendant was adjudicated delinquent.
After hearing mitigating defense evidence of defendant’s youth at the time of the offenses and of his mental retardation, the jury unanimously recommended the death penalty for each murder. As statutory aggravating circumstances in each case, the jury found that the offense was committed during the perpetration or attempted perpetration of an aggravated burglary; that the defendant knowingly created a risk of death or great bodily harm to more than one person; and that the offense was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner. As to the Smith murder, the jury also found that the offense was committed during the perpetration or attempted perpetration of an aggravated rape. The trial judge sentenced the defendant in accordance with the jury’s recommendation.
STATE OF LOUISIANA VERSUS ADAM COMEAUX
Adam Comeaux was indicted by the grand jury in separate counts for the first degree murder of Ida Voiselle and Ruby Voiselle Smith in violation of La.R.S. 14:30. After trial by jury, defendant was found guilty as charged on each count. A sentencing hearing was conducted before the same jury that determined the issue of guilt. The jury unanimously recommended that a sentence of death be imposed on defendant for each murder. The trial judge sentenced defendant to death in accordance with the recommendation of the jury.
State v. Comeaux, 514 So.2d 84, 86 (La.1987). The supreme court affirmed the Defendant’s convictions but vacated his sentences and remanded the matter to the district court for a new penalty hearing. On remand, the Defendant was again sentenced to death on each count. The sentences were subsequently affirmed. State v. Comeaux, 93-2729 (La. 7/1/97), 699 So.2d 16, cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1150, 118 S.Ct. 1169 (1998).
On November 3, 2003, the trial court granted the Defendant’s “Motion to Correct an Illegal and Unconstitutional Death Sentence,” which was based on the ground that he was mentally retarded and could not be executed per Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242 (2002), and commuted the Defendant’s sentences to life at hard labor on each count to run concurrently, without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.
On July 1, 2013, the Defendant filed a “Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence and Supporting Memorandum of Law and Facts.” Therein, the Defendant alleged his sentences were illegal and unconstitutional under the ruling in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), which prohibited a sentencing scheme that mandated a life sentence without the possibility of parole for those under the age of eighteen at the time of the commission of a homicide. The district court initially stayed the proceedings until it could be determined whether Miller applied retroactively. The district court subsequently denied the motion on December 18, 2013, relying on the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Tate, 12-2763 (La. 11/5/13), 130 So.3d 829, cert. denied, __ U.S. __, 134 S.Ct. 2663 (2014), abrogated by Montgomery v. Louisiana, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016), which found the decision in Miller, 567 U.S. 460, did not apply retroactively.
The Defendant filed another “Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence and Supporting Memorandum of Law and Facts” after September 22, 2015. The district court denied the motion on October 14, 2015, as moot and untimely.
A third “Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence” was filed on April 12, 2016. Therein, the Defendant cited the United States Supreme Court ruling in Montgomery, 136 S.Ct. 718, which found the decision in Miller, 567 U.S. 460, announced a new, substantive constitutional rule that was retroactive on state collateral review. He sought to be resentenced to the penalty for manslaughter, moved for the appointment of counsel, and asked for investigators and experts to secure evidence required for a hearing. A hearing on the motion was held on March 27, 2017, and the district court sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
A “Notice of Appeal” was also filed on April 13, 2017, and granted on April 27, 2017. A “Motion to Reconsider Sentence”was filed on April 13, 2017, and was subsequently denied.
The State filed a “Motion to Correct Sentence Without Hearing” on June 14, 2017. Therein, the State waived a sentencing hearing and stated it would not contest a resentencing of the Defendant to life with eligibility for parole. The district court signed an order granting the motion and sentencing the Defendant to life imprisonment with the benefit of parole.
A second “Notice of Appeal” and “Motion to Reconsider Sentence” were filed on July 17, 2017. The trial court issued the following ruling regarding the appeal:“Reviewed. Must file in accordance with law.”The trial court subsequently denied the motion to reconsider.