Accused murderer couldn't afford bond supervision, new judge removes restrictions
BATON ROUGE - A brand new judge, who prided herself on giving suspects second chances in her online campaign videos last year, unleashed an accused murderer without any monitoring requirements in July, the WBRZ Investigative Unit uncovered.
It wasn't a problem for Judge Eboni Johnson Rose until suspect Billy Pettice held a gun to his girlfriend's head and tried to choke her on Nov. 11, 2021. Investigators said he took things a step further on Saturday and shot out the windows of her car as two children were inside.
Pettice is back in custody and is now being held without bond.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit began looking into the situation after learning Pettice had somehow managed to avoid any sort of supervision or ankle monitoring before Saturday's arrest while awaiting a murder trial.
Court records show Pettice posted a $175,000 bond after he was charged in the murder of his then-girlfriend Dedawn Bush in 2018. In July, emails obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit show Pettice could not afford his bond supervision, so Judge Rose relieved him of his monitor and supervision.
WBRZ Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto reached out to Judge Rose about what she did but did not get a return phone call.
For years, the WBRZ Investigative Unit has been documenting problematic situations where offenders are out on multiple bonds or low bonds and continue to re-offend.
This situation has the attention of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association. Executive Director Loren Lampert said this is a statewide issue where judges need the most information possible before a bond is set.
"It's a real problem," Lampert said. "This is going to sound quippish, but it's not a problem until it's a problem. When it's a problem, it's a real problem."
In Pettice's case, his rap sheet was a good indicator of the trouble he's caused in the past. Multiple arrests dating back more than a decade for murder, armed robbery, burglary and theft.
"You want a risk assessment that can protect the public," Lampert said. "Absconding is one thing, but when there is a substantial risk of more perpetration of crimes, we want the courts to err on the side of caution."
Pettice had a court hearing Tuesday. He is currently being held without bond.
WBRZ reached out to his lawyer but did not hear back.
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