Man avoids life in prison, gets 36 years

Hebert pleads guilty to lesser charge in beating death of 73-year-old Lake Arthur man

JENNINGS — A 30-year-old man indicted for second-degree murder of a Lake Arthur man pleaded guilty to an amended murder charge Monday in the 31st Judicial District Court.

Brett “Cowboy” Daniel Hebert, 30, plead guilty to manslaughter in connection with the February 2015 beating death of 73-year-old Charles Raymond Talen Sr. Talen was found beaten to death in his home in what authorities say was a robbery gone wrong.

Hebert and his co-defendant, Roderick Cawthorne Jr., were charged with second-degree murder and obstruction of justice in Talen’s death.

Cawthorne was convicted of the charges in June 2017 and sentenced to life in prison.

Hebert avoided a life prison sentence as part of a plea agreement worked out between his attorney Michael Caffery of Lafayette and Jeff Davis Parish District Attorney Michael Cassidy.

District Court Judge Steve Gunnell sentenced Hebert to 36 years in prison with credit for time served. He must serve 85 percent of the sentence before being eligible for parole.

“Brett Hebert was indicted on second-degree murder because the charges fit the crime, however, his cooperation with law enforcement from the beginning has been very instrumental in solving the crime,” Cassidy said.

Hebert testified under oath at both a grand jury hearing and during Cawthorne’s second-degree murder trial, providing law enforcement and the court with details surrounding the crime. As a result, he was offered the reduced charge and a lesser sentence than Cawthorne who got life, Cassidy said.

“I think it is in the best interest of all to avoid the ugliness and trauma of another trial and it is in the best interest of justice that we go forward,” Cassidy said.

The plea agreement was accepted by Talen’s two daughters, Kimberly Fruge and Sonya Cormier. Other family members, including son Charles Raymond Talen II and sister Suzanne Talen, were against the plea deal.

In a victim impact statement read to the court by Cassidy, Fruge addressed the plea agreement.

“I have decided that in the best interest of my family and myself that we accept the decision of the court, but I do not in any way feel you helped to put a murderer behind bars,” Fruge wrote. “Mr. Hebert, you are also a murderer, and because of your greed and ill regard for human life, I no longer have my father. You have done nothing worthy of a lesser sentence, and I pray that everyday you sit in jail you will remember the face of my father.”

Fruge said nothing Hebert has done has been beneficial to her family, but said he opened his mouth so he could get less time in jail.

In an online petition presented to the court, Talen’s son, Charles Raymond Talen II asked the court to reject the plea agreement. Nearly 700 people, many who knew the victim and his family, signed and wrote comments on the petition.

“The entire family is shocked and very much against this deal that we never thought would happen as Hebert said there was no deal when he was testifying,” Talen said in filing the petition.

After the hearing Cassidy said the decision was a tough one.

“This was very difficult,” Cassidy said. “Raymond was a friend of mine and he was a very nice and generous man who would give you the shirt off his back. He would probably have given those guys money, only if they would have asked for it.”

Cassidy said Cawthorne is the “main culprit” in Talen’s death and noted he will serve the reset of his life in prison. Hebert, who he says is almost as responsible, will serve the majority of his life in prison for his cooperation in helping law enforcement solve the case.

“Unfortunately Mr. Talen did not accept and understand that, but without Mr. Hebert’s cooperation, we would not have evidence that corroborated his statements,” he said.

Cawthorne continues to deny being at Talen’s house although his DNA was found on a package that was delivered two hours before Talen died, Cassidy said.””Plea Deal