Calendar's Restaurant killer death sentence reinstated
NEW ORLEANS - A federal appeals court on Thursday reinstated Todd Kelvin Wessinger's death sentence in the 1995 double murder at a popular Baton Rouge restaurant.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2015 decision by U.S. District Judge James Brady that Wessinger had not had an effective lawyer during the penalty phase of his trial. Brady had ordered that the state court re-do the penalty phase.
Wessinger's initial attorney was indicted in an unrelated case six months before Wessinger's June 1997 trial. The replacement attorney's father died three months later. That attorney has since died.
The appeals court ruled that the list of carefully documented efforts to appeal specific elements of the case and to find funding for additional legal and investigative work -- which mostly failed -- were evidence of diligent and competent legal work.
Wessinger had once worked as a dishwasher at Calendar's Restaurant on Perkins Road near Essen Lane. He went to the restaurant before it opened on Nov. 19, 1995, to rob the place.
He killed manager Stephanie Guzzardo, who was on the phone with a 911 operator and could be heard begging for her life as he forced his way into the restaurant's office and shot her.
He fatally shot cook David Breakwell and injured Mark Armentor. One other employee escaped injury because Wessinger's gun malfunctioned.
Wessinger escaped with about $7,000 but was identified as the murder suspect very quickly. Police took the unusual step of releasing the 911 recording of Guzzardo's desperate last moments.