GRETNA, La. — A jury convicted a man of second-degree murder on Friday in the 2012 death and dismemberment of a New Orleans nightclub dancer whose body parts were discovered on Gulf Coast beaches.
The jury in the New Orleans suburb of Gretna deliberated for less than three hours to reach its verdict, after the man told the court he did not commit the crime.
Terry Speaks, 42, was found guilty of second-degree murder, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, said Suzanne Ciaccio, law clerk for Judge Stephen Grefer who presided over the case.
The four-day trial brought grisly evidence, including photos of slain dancer Jaren Lockhart’s body parts and a witness who suggested her killers had cut tattoos off her body to prevent the identification of her remains.
Dressed in a suit and speaking calmly, Speaks told the jury many of the witnesses who had implicated him lied.
“I never killed anybody,” he said. “I had nothing to do with this.”
But during two hours of cross-examination, Speaks frequently seemed confused by prosecutor Doug Freese’s questions and had difficulty recalling answers he had given earlier.
“You can’t keep your story straight even for half an hour, can you?” Freese demanded, as he peppered Speaks with questions.
Prosecutors said Speaks and his then-girlfriend Margaret Sanchez went to Temptations Gentlemen’s Club in New Orleans’ French Quarter on June 6, 2012, and offered hundreds of dollars for a dancer who would join them for a private party.
The 22-year-old Lockhart agreed to go with them.
Speaks and Sanchez drove Lockhart to their home in nearby Kenner, Louisiana, stabbed her to death and cut up her body, then drove to Mississippi and threw her remains off a bridge near the Gulf Coast, prosecutors said.
The body parts began washing up on coastal beaches the next day.
A grand jury in 2014 charged Speaks and Sanchez with second-degree murder, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The state will try Sanchez, 31, separately.
Speaks already is serving an eight-year prison sentence on an unrelated charge of failing to register in Jefferson Parish as a sex offender following a 2003 conviction in North Carolina for having sex with a minor.
Speaks is scheduled to be sentenced for his latest conviction on July 8, according to local television station WVUE. He faces a mandatory life sentence.