Natchitoches Families Seek Answers After Police Evidence Allows Killer Out Of Jail

By Jonathan McCall - bio | email

NATCHITOCHES, LA (KSLA) - Terry Randolph and Ijetta Joseph are two families, brought together by one tragedy. As the two walked out of the halls of justice at the Natchitoches Parish Courthouse Wednesday morning, they say justice for them hasn't been served.

Terry Randolph is still shocked at the news that the man convicted of murdering his son, is about to walk free. "I could not believe it. After 14 months of investigation they called my family to tell us they have nothing. He loved fun and just enjoyed life, but somebody else thought different."

His son Terrance Demars was shot and killed by Joseph Nell Hamilton back in May 2007. Ijetta Joseph, who's 12 year old son was also shot and wounded but survived, is just as shocked something like this could happen. "I just felt like that there was just no way this could possibly happen."

Natchitoches prosecutors tried to sentence Hamilton to life in prison for Terrence's murder, and 50 years for wounding Jamal, but in the end they would get neither.

The District Attorney office in Natchitoches Parish tells us their case against Hamilton quickly eroded right in front of their eyes, when the Natchitoches Police Department mis-handled some key evidence in the case, including a murder weapon they found three weeks later after Terrence was killed.

"The only markers on the gun were those of the victim and the defendant asserting a self-defense claim, and only having the victim's markers help bolster his claim," says Natchitoches Parish Assistant District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington.

And because of the handling of the investigation, Hamilton pleaded guilty to a count of negligent homicide for Terrence's death, and aggravated assault for wounding Jamal. A charge far less than the first degree murder and attempted murder prosecutors were looking for.

Harrington says it's all he could do to salvage the case. "With the inconsistencies we got, with the gun, it just made it insurmountable for us to get a guilty verdict."

Hamilton was given a suspended sentence of five years probation for each count. Jamal Joseph says more should be done.

"It ain't justice. It's just like somebody killing somebody going to prison and getting off for free, they just walk out."

Randolph says he feels his son's life ended in vain. "It's a tragedy. It hurts it's painful to think that you have to live with something that happened like this, and they just let a killer go free."