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Friday, April 18, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Missing murder trial witness located

Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 1:28 PM

Johnathan Manning / American Press jmanning@americanpress.com

A state motion to continue Robert Wilkins’ second-degree murder trial was made moot when a witness was located Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday morning, prosecutor Rick Bryant asked Judge Kent Savoie for a continuance because witness Richard Neal could not be found. Savoie granted the motion, but stayed the continuance until 1:30 p.m. so that defense attorney Richard Bourke could appeal the decision to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.

Neal was located Tuesday afternoon and the case will continue, said Holly Carter, District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman.

Before Bryant’s request, Bourke filed a motion to exclude Neal’s testimony. Savoie denied the motion, but ordered the state to turn over any statements related to Neal.

Wilkins, 37, is on trial for the September 2004 slaying of Anthony Fontenot near the Choupique Bridge. He also faces two drug distribution charges. Wilkins was found guilty of the crime in 2011, but the 3rd Circuit overruled the conviction because a juror was excused because of race.

An attempt to try Wilkins in 2004 ended in a mistrial during jury selection because some jurors had already been questioned when an issue about the state’s stand-your-ground law arose.

It is believed Neal had several interactions with Wilkins the day he is alleged to have killed Wilkins.

Bryant said he was “very reluctantly” requesting the continuance.w

Neal did not testify when Wilkins was found guilty in 2011, but Bryant — who was not the prosecutor in the case at the time — said he “found it very important to locate this witness to find out how (Wilkins and Fontenot) came together.”

Megan Dougherty, Bryant’s trial assistant, said a subpoena for Neal was typed up in mid-December. She said she made numerous attempts to reach Neal and that his parole officer in Texas has been to his residence to try to locate him.

Calcasieu Sheriff’s Office detective Gerald Thomas testified that he had been trying to reach Neal during the last week. Houston police tried to locate Neal at his house on Saturday and Monday, Thomas said.

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