Relatives not pleased with manslaughter plea in Wildsville shooting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 27, 2000

VIDALIA, La. – Some relatives of a Wildsville man fatally shot in January 1999 said Monday they aren’t satisfied with his killer’s manslaughter plea or the manner in which they were notified of the plea.

But Harry Edwards’ plea, made late Wednesday afternoon in connection with the shooting death of Johnny Whitehead, &uot;was something none of us anticipated,&uot; Assistant District Attorney Madaline Gibbs said.

According to Sheriff Randy Maxwell, 45-year-old Edwards, of 124 Beard Road in Wildsville, allegedly shot Whitehead in the head with a .44-caliber pistol following an argument over a small amount of deer meat and raccoon hides.

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In a trial of motions held Wednesday morning, Edwards’ attorney, Joel Higgins, said he planned to argue that Whitehead was high on crack cocaine at the time of incident and pointed a gun at Edwards, and that Edwards shot Whitehead in self-defense.

&uot;I’m not satisfied, given the circumstances,&uot;&160;said Dora Whitehead, one of Johnny Whitehead’s 10 surviving siblings. &uot;I didn’t know about (Harry Edwards’) plea until someone from the D.A.’s Office called.&uot;

&uot;I&160;don’t think (the plea) was right. He should have gotten the right punishment,&uot;&160;added sister Dianne Whitehead, although she was hard pressed to say what a proper punishment would be.

But Gibbs said that Edwards’ plea came as a shock to everyone involved and that Whitehead’s relatives were notified immediately after the plea. The trial of Edwards, who was charged with second-degree murder, was set for this week.

In addition, said Gibbs, &uot;I&160;had spoken to members of the family a few months ago and asked if (a plea of) manslaughter would be acceptable to them, and they indicated it would.&uot;

The family will have the chance to give their input with regards to sentencing during a pre-sentencing investigation ordered by Judge Leo Boothe of Seventh Judicial District Court. And relatives will be notified when a date for sentencing is set, Gibbs said.

The pre-sentencing investigation is expected to take about 90 days. In addition to the $70,000 bond Boothe had set for Edwards in January 1999, the judge added a extra $30,000 bond. Edwards was released from the Concordia Parish Jail on that bond later Wednesday.