GRETNA, La. (WGNO) - The Jefferson Parish courtroom where accused murderer Terry Speaks is on trial was packed Tuesday morning. Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese consoled family and friends of Jaren Lockhart in the front row, saying "If you need to leave the courtroom at any time, please do." Speaks and Margaret Sanchez allegedly murdered and dismembered Lockhart, a Bourbon Street dancer, three years ago.
Speaks, who decided to dismiss his counsel and represent himself Monday, whispered with his advisers (former attorneys) John Benz and Brad Scott at the podium, dressed in an suit jacket and tie, starkly contrasting from the orange jumpsuit and handcuffs he has been seen in at past court appearances.
Judge Steve Grefer made quick rulings on motions over trial evidence and then 14 jurors entered (including alternates), nine women and 5 men.
The charges Speaks faces, second-degree murder and two counts of obstruction of justice, were read to the jurors. They were also given instructions. Then Judge Grefer told them, "Remain focused and pay attention. This is a very serious case."
Assistant D.A. Doug Freese capitalized off of that last remark as he began his opening statement, saying: "The judge's last statement is very important." He moved past the podium and spoke directly to the jury.
"This is a case about how people handle death. The death of a human being is a solemn event. Something that brings sorrow."
Then Freese pointed right at Speaks, "You will find that [Terry Speaks & Margaret Sanchez] perverted the solemnity of a young woman's death and showed absolute lack of respect. Lack of respect for the law. Lack of respect for her life. And all for their own selfish reasons. These are two very small people who think very highly of themselves."
Freese talked about Jaren Lockhart's background, saying the 22-year-old was a 'stripper' and drug addict, "but we will show you that her life had value. And the value of her life was subjected and ignored by this man [Speaks] and his girlfriend [Sanchez]."
Freese set up a timeline and scene, explaining how on June 6, 2012, Sparks and Sanchez were at 'Stilettos' asking about a threesome and wanting a private party. They went to 'Temptaions' next and someone pointed out Jaren Lockhart, who was 'desperate' to make more money. Freese says the three were seen speaking and then Jaren rushed into the locker room, only grabbing a couple belongings (boots and pants with flares on them), then she quickly came out, worried she'd lose this 'opportunity'. Before she left she told a waitress she was 'leaving to make some more money' and the waitress asked her if she was safe.
Then Freese spoke about all the times Lockhart, Sparks and Sanchez were caught on cameras around Bourbon Street. First Lockhart was seen in the locker room, she checked out herself in the mirror then quickly ran out. Then the three were seen together at 'Stilettos', 'Temptations', & 'QT Pie'. They were together approximately 20 minutes before they faded out of the last camera, walking together.
"Jaren is never seen alive after that moment," said Freese.
Then, Freese says, the three got into Sanchez's car and went to Speaks and Sanchez's home in Kenner, referencing her car being seen on I-10 cameras heading that way. That car was seen on I-10 again, but heading to Mississippi.
Freese then talked about parts of Lockhart's body washing ashore the beaches in Mississippi, going into graphic detail that is too gruesome to reveal on-air or online, about how the body was mutilated to cover up tattoos and prevent anyone from identifying Jaren's body. He also talked about a witness seeing Speaks startled with a garbage bag. He described other suspicious behavior from Speaks and Sanchez following Lockhart's disappearance, talking about clearing off photos and computer data, acting nervous and unusual in social settings and their usually sordid home and car smelling like cleaning products just days before their arrest.
Freese concluded his opening statement saying the way he opened, pointing directly at Speaks, "He can't keep his mouth shut because he's smarter than all of us."
Then the court had a 10-minute recess and Terry Speaks was set to begin his opening statement after.