Disclaimer: All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
COVINGTON, La. (WGNO) — A man accused of the brutal murder of a North Shore priest and his assistant appeared in court for the first time in the case on Tuesday.
At an arraignment, 49-year-old Antonio Donde Tyson pleaded not guilty to all charges related to the deaths of Fr. Otis Young and caretaker Ruth Prats after their bodies were found “burned beyond recognition” in late November.
Police say Tyson was seen on surveillance video at Prats’ home crouching behind her door with what appeared to be a knife behind his back. Later, Officers say that he was seen driving off in Prats’ car.
At court today, Antonio Tyson’s sister said, “I don’t know what to believe. I really don’t know. We can’t help the situation with my brother. We are sorry for their loss, but they are up there staring at us like we did something.”
In regards to the not guilty plea, Tyson’s lawyer said, “Well, I think it speaks for itself.” He went on to say the next step is a court hearing dealing with the documentation of DNA evidence.
The St. Tammany Parish District Attorney says they are on track to seek the death penalty in this case.
“I’ve heard what the DA’s said about this and we will leave it at that,” Cuccia said.
There was an outpouring of love and support for Father Otis and Ruth Prats.
“She’s everywhere. Everywhere we look, anything that’s elegant, classy, holy. That’s a reminder of Ruth. That’s a reminder of Father Otis,” Ruth’s Friend Celie Clark said.
“Every minute we don’t have them is sad for us. We just hope to continue to learn from the example they set for us,” Clark said.
Both Fr. Otis and Prats were pillars of their church community at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington.
The next court hearing regarding the DNA evidence is scheduled for April 18th.
Tyson is currently in Angola Prison, after he tried to escape from a St. Tammany Parish jail.
Tyson has previously served a 40-year sentence for forcible rape, a 40-year sentence for armed robbery, and a 30-year sentence for aggravated burglary, all to run concurrently. Earlier this month, he was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder.
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