Faces life in prison without parole
Jerel Smith, the 32-year-old Luling man arrested and charged with murdering Metairie’s Ryan Dubuc in 2017 for $80 cash, was found guilty Friday of second-degree murder and armed robbery.
The jury delivered a unanimous verdict after less than an hour of deliberation, bringing a five-day trial to an end.
Smith is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14 and faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison on the second-degree murder conviction and a sentence up to 99 years for armed robbery. The sentences are to be served without benefit of parole, probation or suspension. Judge Lauren Lemmon ordered Smith be held without bond pending his sentencing.
“To say I am happy with the verdict handed down (May 4) would be an understatement,” said Joel Chaisson II, St. Charles Parish District Attorney. “Jerel Smith’s actions on Jan. 9, 2017 were evil, callous and calculated.
“These cases are never easy to prosecute, but through the hard work and dedication of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives and my prosecutors, our community and Mr. Dubuc’s family can take comfort in knowing that Jerel Smith will now pay for his crime by spending the rest of his life in prison.”
Chaisson called the murder “a horrendous crime” and said he hoped Smith’s conviction and upcoming sentencing would serve as a warning to anyone believing they could walk free after committing such an act.
“Mr. Smith thought he was going to be able to get away with it by virtue of concealing the body in what he thought was a remote location, dumping Mr. Dubuc’s body and getting rid of the vehicle,” Chaisson said. “Thanks to excellent police work, citizens willing to come forward, telling what they knew and testifying to what they saw and prosecutors willing to put in the effort to present that to a jury, we were able to secure a conviction.
“I hope it sends a message to other individuals out there who would think about committing these kinds of crimes. You think you might get away with it, but in the end, justice more often than not will prevail.”
Chaisson said this case was always destined for trial.
“These are the kinds of cases where there is no plea agreement on the table, and there was none in this case. This was a life sentence … there was no incentive (for Smith) to plea and we had no incentive to make a deal with him,” Chaisson said.
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said Dubuc was “robbed and brutally murdered for as little as $80.” The Sheriff’s Office mobilized an intense investigation that led to the Jan. 11 arrest. Champagne said a S.W.A.T. team arrested Smith at his mother’s residence.
Detectives said Dubuc was shot four times in the head at close range. He was 28 years old.
Shortly before his death, he withdrew $80 from an ATM at Birdie’s in Luling. He was then approached by Smith. Detectives do not believe the two knew each other. However, Smith got into Dubuc’s truck and they left together, but it is unknown if Dubuc allowed Smith into his truck willingly.
Dubuc’s body was found lying along an access road off La. Highway 3160 in Hahnville at 9:45 a.m. Plant workers discovered his body near a wastewater treatment plant. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to Champagne, “a great deal of blood” was found in Dubuc’s truck. Champagne also said surveillance video showed Smith was a frequent visitor of that Birdie’s store in Luling.
Detectives believe Smith robbed another person, also a plant worker, at the same gas station on Dec. 29 around 4:30 a.m. A witness told police that Smith approached a man with a gun and that they struggled before Smith fled the scene.