Nearly two years to the day after being arrested, 20-year-old Louis LePlat has been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the murder of 23-year-old Bishop resident James Eric Rambeau, Jr.
A Ventura County jury found LePlat guilty of second-degree murder on April 29.
LePlat was arrested for Rambeau’s death June 19, 2009 following a report of a stabbing on Winuba Lane, west of Bishop.
The case has featured many twists and turns, including a change of venue, being subpoenaed of local media representatives, and, since the jury trial started April 5, testimony from a jail-house informant for the prosecution and testimony that also shed light on unrelated controversy and scandal in the Inyo County D.A.’s Office.
After LePlat was being denied a request for a new trial and for the charges to be dropped to voluntary manslaughter, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell sentenced LePlat to 15 years to life with the possibility of parole after 15 years on May 27. The legal definition of second-degree murder is killing another person with malice aforethought but without premeditation.
LePlat will be serving his time at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in Wasco.
LePlat’s case was transferred to Ventura following a change of venue request last year due to the high volume of media coverage of the case, which was determined to have prevented LePlat from receiving a fair trial locally.
Inyo County District Attorney Art Maillet had charged LePlat with first-degree murder (a premeditated killing), but with no special circumstances that would justify the death penalty.
According to Ventura County court records, LePlat’s public defender, Neil Quinn, requested to have Maillet sworn in and questioned but was denied by the court.
Before judgement was handed down, “victim impact statements” were given by Tanya Rambeau, James Rambeau Sr. and the victim’s mother, Jeanine Pete-Gerity.
Rambeau was a member of the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe, born in April 1987. According to the tribe’s website, Rambeau grew up in Fallon, Nev., then moved to Pensacola, Fla., with his mother, sister, stepfather, stepbrother and stepsister. He eventually moved to the Owens Valley to start a family.
He is survived by his wife, Tonya, and, at the time, an unborn child. He is survived by his parents, his sister, grandparents, great uncles and aunts, and many other family and friends.