Closing arguments in Mayeaux trial painted grisly portrait of Big Bend murders

Defense: Mayeaux was mentally insane; Prosecution: He was ill, but sane; Jury: Guilty as charged

A 12-member jury deliberated only 25 minutes on Nov. 1 before finding Michael Mayeaux guilty of the September 2016 murders of his grandparents, Hillman and Eloise Mayeaux, in their rural Big Bend home.

Mayeaux muttered something from his seat next to defense attorneys Mary Helen Johnson and Chad Guillot, but could not be understood. He argued briefly with bailiffs as they shackled his wrists and ankles, but was not violent in his protest.

District Attorney Charles Riddle, who delivered the prosecution’s rebuttal arguments that Thursday afternoon, said he was “very pleased with the verdict and very satisfied with the jury. They were very attentive throughout the trial. It was four long days and they were attentive the whole time.”

Guillot said he was “sorry for the Mayeaux family and their loss.”

“Everything about this case is a tragedy,” Johnson added.

MAYEAUX FAMILY COMMENTS

Julee Mayeaux Dockery, the victims’ daughter and Michael Mayeaux’s aunt, said there were “no winners in this. I am just glad that the justice system did what it does. Now we will just try to put the matter to rest and move on with our lives.”

Amanda Mayeaux, another daughter of the victims, said “this did not have to happen. It did not have to end like this.”

She said she hopes her mentally ill nephew’s experience will somehow raise awareness that more needs to be done for those suffering with mental illness “before they hurt themselves or someone else.”

There was never any reasonable or credible doubt that Michael Mayeaux killed his grandparents. The fact that he was mentally ill was also accepted by the prosecution. The only question was whether he was legally insane -- that he was unable to tell the difference between right and wrong -- at the time of the killings.

Four expert witnesses testified during the two days of the prosecution's case (Oct. 30-31) that he was legally sane, and thus criminally responsible for his acts, when he shot Hillman Mayeaux with a shotgun and stabbed Eloise Mayeaux 33 times on Sept. 13, 2016.

Riddle and Assistant District Attorney Norris Greenhouse Sr. conceded Mayeaux suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome -- a mental illness -- but noted that condition does not deprive a person of his ability to know right from wrong.

They also pointed out that Mayeaux attempted to clean up the murder scene, hid the bodies and the shotgun, cleaned the knife with bleach and another cleaning solution and hid from authorities who were searching the house after the murders.

All of those actions show that he knew what he had done was wrong and that he had the organizational and thinking skills to undertake the coverup attempt.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

Greenhouse delivered the prosecution’s initial closing arguments.He dramatically demonstrated the stabbing attack on Eloise Mayeaux and the description of the close-range shotgun blast to the back of Hillman Mayeaux’s neck and head.

Greenhouse went through all of the evidence presented during the trial and how it proves the state’s case that Mayeaux is guilty of the crimes.

He particularly hammered home the “blood evidence” in the case -- Mayeaux’s blood from a cut on his hand was on the shotgun, his blood and blood of the victims were on items of clothing.

“Beyond a reasonable doubt, Miss Eloise and Mr. Hillman were killed by this defendant,” Greenhouse said, pointing to Mayeaux.

Whether it was a tic related to his Tourette’s or some other reason, Mayeaux periodically smiled during the closing arguments.

‘HAUNTED HOUSE’

In her closing arguments, Johnson reminded jurors that the previous day was Halloween. She said most people enjoy “haunted houses” during the holiday and aren’t really scared because they know it is only make believe and the experience will be over soon.

For her client, she said, the haunted house is in his mind and he is trapped in it -- unable to leave. It is his reality.

She recounted testimony that showed Mayeaux suffered from various mental illnesses and conditions.

“We have proven he is a very ill person and that he will always be trapped in that haunted house in his head,” Johnson said.

“We are asking that you allow him to go to a treatment facility where he can get the help he so badly needs,” she continued. “Maybe then, someday he can leave that haunted house.”

Riddle presented the rebuttal to Johnson’s argument. Armed with photos of the grisly murder scene, the district attorney told jurors that the only “haunted house” in this case was the one Eloise and Hillman shared with their troubled grandson on Sept. 13, 2016.

In his closing comments to the jurors, Riddle said he was “going to make it very simple for you.”

He said the case is so clear, and the state had proven its case so completely, that they should find Mayeaux guilty of 2nd degree murder on both counts.

QUICK DECISION

The jury’s deliberation was one of the shortest segments of the four-day trial.

Jury selection took until 10:30 p.m. that Monday (Oct. 29). The prosecution took two days, Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 30-31), to present its case. The defense presented its case that Thursday morning. Closing arguments by both sides ended at about 4 p.m. Thursday.

After a brief recess, 12th Judicial District Judge Kerry Spruill delivered detailed instructions to the jurors, explaining the laws and their duties as jurors. He released the jurors to deliberate at 4:45 p.m. The jury came back into court with its decision at 5:10 p.m.

Conviction of 2nd degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence without benefit of parole. Formal sentencing was scheduled for 1 p.m. on Dec. 18.

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