Man accused of beating teen to death, sentenced to life in prison
LIVINGSTON PARISH – Over a year ago, Emily Rodgers' body was found in a wooded area near Maurepas, and as of Monday, Nov. 18 the man accused of her murder has been sentenced to life in prison.
John Cowart, 37, had been convicted of second-degree murder at a trial in October and faced a mandatory life sentence. The Advocate reports that this sentence was imposed Monday, by Judge William Burris in 22nd Judicial Court.
The decision was made after the state used witness testimony as well as Cowart’s initial police interviews to demonstrate that when Rodgers was first reported missing, Cowart denied any knowledge of her whereabouts before changing his story. Only days after claiming he had no idea where the teenager was, Cowart led investigators to a wooded area in Maurepas where her body was found.
Cowart and his defense team claimed he'd met Rodgers the night of her death and that the two were "messing around" in a friend’s bedroom.
Cowart alleged that during their encounter, Rodgers placed a zip tie around her own neck and began choking. He said he panicked when she stopped breathing and he reacted by putting her in the trunk of his car before using jumper cables to strangle her and hitting her in the head with a hammer. Cowart also alleged both he and Rodgers had used meth several times that night.
The state refuted Cowart’s claims, saying there was no evidence of a zip tie around Rodger’s neck. In addition to this, a forensic pathologist said it’s unlikely an object such as a zip tie could've killed Rodgers.
Jimmy Smith, the East Baton Rouge forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Rodgers said the injuries that resulted in her death appeared to have been caused by the use of a blunt force object, such as a hammer.
Two other suspects were charged in Rodgers’ death, Justin Scivicque and Derek Williford.
Scivicque, the man whose home Rodgers and Cowart were visiting shortly before her death, is accused of obstruction of justice for allegedly helping Cowart burn evidence. Scivicque testified against Cowart at the trial.
Williford faced charges of accessory after the fact to murder and obstruction of justice as Cowart told authorities Williford helped him dump Rodgers' body. Court records show Williford pleaded no contest in March and was sentenced to one year in prison on each count.