St. Charles Herald-Guide

Attempted murder charges refused against 3 men

Kyle Barnett - August 3, 2012

The St. Charles Parish District Attorney’s Office has refused charges against three men who were arrested and charged with attempted murder.

The charges were refused by former St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel. Current District Attorney Joel Chaisson said he does not intend to comment on prosecutorial decisions made prior to him taking office or on cases like this one that could ultimately result in prosecutions.

On April 8, St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s deputies responding to two calls of shots fired in the Preston Hollow subdivision of St. Rose found Samuel Vinnett, III lying in the street and bleeding profusely from numerous bullet wounds.

Following a short interrogation at the scene, Vinnett told deputies he had been shot by "Nicholas Robertson." Vinnett was then transported to University Hospital for medical treatment.

Deputies followed a trail of Vinnett’s blood back to where the shooting had taken place and found five shell casings from a .32 caliber firearm.

Witnesses in the area, including Vinnett’s father, reported seeing a gold Altima in the area of the shooting shortly before and after it took place. The driver of the Altima was reported to have said his house had been shot and he was driving in the area to find out what happened. Shortly afterward, Vinnett was shot. In addition, witnesses said another subject was with Vinnett at the time of the shooting.

Vinnett’s father said he also saw the Altima driven by Jamie Robertson pulling away from the scene followed by a green Buick driven by "Nicholas Robertson".

During the investigation, deputies quickly ruled out the existence of a "Nicholas Robertson" and instead focused their attention on 21-year-old Nicholas Cockerham and 30-year-old ex-convict Jamie Robertson. The wrong name mentioned by Vinnett was due to blood loss, they believed.

Deputies later linked Robertson to the Altima through a traffic stop that occurred a few weeks prior. However, the car was registered to someone else.

After Vinnett was stabilized at the hospital further details of the shooting came out.

Vinnett told deputies that earlier in the night he was driving through the Preston Hollow neighborhood with his brother when the subjects shot out the rear window of his Impala.

Vinnett said he returned home and dropped off the vehicle before returning to the neighborhood where he saw Cockerham and 23-year-old Damien Blanks in the gold Altima. Vinnett told police that both subjects had guns and started shooting at him. Vinnett said he began to run from the car when he was struck by several bullets. The police report makes no mention of Vinnett agreeing with earlier witness testimony that put another subject with him at the time of the shooting.

After the second interview with the victim, deputies impounded his Impala with the intent of procuring a search warrant. The results of that search were not included with the police report.

Both Cockerham and Banks were later located by police and arrested for attempted murder, but the third subject, Robertson, was not located until nearly a month later when on May 21 he was transferred from the Orleans Parish Prison to the custody of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Cockerham was previously arrested twice for felonies related to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Banks had been previously arrested for felonies related to illegal carrying of a firearm and possession of cocaine.

Robertson has been arrested for multiple felonies, including three counts of looting. The day following Robertson’s arrests, all three subjects were released from custody and the charges of attempted murder were dropped.

Though Chaisson had no comment on this specific case, he did send a statement to the Herald-Guide regarding gunfire in residential neighborhoods.

"In regard to your inquiry, however, I will state generally, and without discussing the specifics of any particular case, that there have been a number of senseless shootings and other incidents involving gunfire in residential neighborhoods, including the case you have inquired about, all of which are being reviewed by my office in order to determine if there is any connection between these crimes of violence and also whether or not sufficient evidence is available to warrant prosecutions," Chaisson wrote. "Witness cooperation is essential to the successful prosecution of these cases so I encourage any citizens having information regarding these crimes to fully cooperate with my staff and the police so that we can bring the criminals committing these acts to justice."