Man pleads guilty to manslaughter

Published 4:12 pm Monday, August 29, 2011

An East Brewton native will be spending the next several years behind bars after pleading guilty to charges of manslaughter in a Louisiana court last week.

Toby Beasley, 32, had the sentence in connection with the charges against him reduced in exchange for his plea of guilt in the death of an elderly woman in the St. Rose area near Hahnville, La., where he lived. Had he not taken the offer from prosecutors in the case, he would have been sentenced on a charge of first-degree murder.

Judge Lauren Lemmon of the 29th Judicial District in St. Charles Parish sentenced Beasley to 40 years I prison for the crime.

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Beasley was arrested in February and charged with the death of Ophelia Shepard, 88, who was trapped inside her burning home on Mockingbird Lane on Feb. 11. According to authorities, Shepard was at home with her two grandsons when Beasley kicked in the door of the home shortly before 6:30 a.m., poured an accelerant onto the floor of the living room and ignited it before fleeing. Since the victim was a double amputee bound to a wheelchair, she was unable to escape the blaze. The two grandsons escaped through a window, suffering minor injuries, but were prevented by heavy smoke from re-entering the home to help Shepard.

During the victim’s impact portion of Beasley’s hearing last week, Shepard’s daughter, Elmira Blanks, said she was thankful that justice had been served. She also lived at the home that burned down.

Also arrested in the incident was Janna Firmin, 34, of Hahnville, who authorities say was the driver. Her trial has been set for Sept. 19.