Passaniti trial: Witness tells of plot, money, murder

Passaniti trial: Witness tells of plot, money, murder

CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Jurors in the murder trial of Linda Kate Passaniti heard more testimony on Monday, this time from the man who already is in jail for his part in the murder.

Passaniti is accused of murdering her stepfather, Ernest Lutrell, and is one of four people implicated in a murder-for-hire plot.

Prosecutors say Passaniti wanted Luttrell's hundreds of thousands of dollars he made from the Haynesville Shale natural gas boom.

There was some very detailed and chilling testimony in that Caddo Parish courtroom on Monday, much of it covering the planning of Lutrell's murder, and the murder itself.

And all of it came from the self-admitted hit man, Erick Crain. Crain has pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence. He took the stand about 6 p.m. and testified that he was hired by Luttrell's housekeeper, Tina VanMoerkeque, who also has pleaded guilty, and Ernest's wife, Loretta.

Crain says he was promised $1,000 to kill Luttrell and make it look like a robbery. Armed with a .44-caliber weapon, Crain says he went into the Luttrell home to where he had been told Luttrell would be sleeping.

"He came around the corner. I'm not expecting to see him. I panicked. I shot, and I shot four more times," Crain said on the stand.

The defense worked to put distance between Crain and Linda Passaniti, asking Crain if he had ever seen Passaniti before.

Crain replied, "No, sir."

The DA's office has accused Passaniti of being the mastermind, saying that she was motivated by greed.

The trial is expected to resume Tuesday morning.

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