The verdict is in on murder suspect Louis LePlat. He has been found guilty of second-degree murder and found not guilty of murder in the first-degree. The state mandated sentence for the offense is 15 years to life. LePalt will be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. on May 27 in Ventura.
Case information from Ventura County Superior Court states the jury was reportedly “hung” on the first-degree murder charge the day before finding LePlat guilty of second-degree murder on April 29.
LePlat was arrested on June 23, 2009 following the stabbing death of 23-year-old Bishop resident James Eric Rambeau, Jr. on June 19.
LePlat’s Public Defender Neil Quinn explained that he believes the testimony is revealing more than just details of the case, but of a “culture of respect” where violence is a common response to conflict.
Quinn said on Tuesday, May 3 that he believes that the situations that led to LePlat stabbing James Rambeau, Jr. in June 2009 was a result of a “whole culture of respect that leads to this, sort of, condoning of violence as the only way to gain respect.”
He explained that LePlat’s reactions to the situation were considered extreme by many witnesses. But, Quinn said, according to many of the same witnesses the use of violence, “Didn’t seem out of the ordinary.”
Quinn explained that fateful day in June 2009 was “a good mood gone sour” for LePlat.
Quinn explained that LePlat had the intentions of enjoying the day among friends, but a series of situations that included LePlat allegedly being knocked down in front of his peers, led to LePlat seeking retaliation. Quinn explained that LePlat went out that night with an individual who had allegedly assaulted him earlier.
According to Quinn, LePlat had gone out looking for the individual at a residence on the Bishop Paiute Indian Reservation. LePlat asked to come in but had the door slammed in his face, Quinn explained, and LePlat then busted the door’s window. Quinn said that the window breaking got Rambeau out of his seat and outside to talk to LePlat. Quinn said a fight broke out between the two.
“Most murders, manslaughters and killings are, sadly, a product of drugs and alcohol or temper issues or a disturbance of some kind,” Quinn said. “Unfortunately, this had all three.”
“I don’t think LePlat started his day with any intentions,” said Quinn. He added that the culture of respect and violence is something people need to work against.
“My deepest condolences go to the Rambeau family,” Quinn added.
Turning to the trial, Quinn said he does not necessarily understand the intentions of the D.A.’s office in bringing Daniel Casteel in as a witness.
Casteel, who faces charges of embezzlement and drug possession, was in the Inyo County Jail cell next to LePlat. Quinn said Casteel was being used by the D.A,’s office to try and gain more information on LePlat and what happened during the night of the incident in June. This was to be in exchange for a deal with the D.A. Quinn said that at one point, Casteel wore a tape recorder during some of the conversations he had with LePlat.
Even though the recordings corroborates that LePlat did indeed stab Rambeau, Quinn said Casteel would “embellish” certain details while on the stand. Quinn said he thinks the D.A. used Casteel to try and secure a first-degree conviction.
Quinn added that it has cost Inyo County nearly $50,000 to have Casteel brought in as a witness.
Quinn said Maillet is still denying that Casteel will be given any sort of deal.
“I think its a bold faced lie,” Quinn said.
He added he was going to “do whatever I can” to make sure Casteel stays in jail and receives the full punishment for his crimes.
District Attorney Maillet refused to return phone calls seeking comment, as it is his policy not to communicate with the press.