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Witnesses in trial tell of hearing gunshots

By LAUREN LANGLOIS staffwriter@hammondstar.com

Insight about the day of Grace Lamonte's murder on Aug. 23, 2009, came from two witnesses Monday who said they were in parked vehicles as she was shot in the head inside her home.

Ronald Bandy Jr. is facing a first-degree murder charge in the fatal shooting of 68-year-old Lamonte, who was gunned down in her home on South Baptist Road after men broke in during the early morning hours. Lamonte's husband Anthony was shot multiple times and survived, despite a bullet coming dangerously close to his heart. He told the jury of the tragic flashpoint earlier in the trial last week in 21st Judicial District Court in Amite.

On Monday, Danielle Peters said she was parked in a green mustang at an apartment complex not far from where Lamonte was killed. Peters was dating Bandy at the time of the murder, but they are no longer in a relationship. The 26-year-old was 17 at the time. According to Peters, Bandy came to her house and suggested they go to a store. Instead, she wound up in another location, an apartment complex, not knowing what she was doing there.

At the spot was another vehicle described as a brown SUV where Peters saw Alice and Justin Walker. She said she knew of them but did not know them personally. She did not know at the time that the Walkers were mother and son and that they were related to Bandy. There were also two other men she did not know.

The prosecution believes these two men were Jarris Monroe and Benny Flowers. Monroe is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder in the case and Flowers is serving a 20-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.

Peters' memory was hazy about the details of the car Bandy was in throughout the night and said he went from car to car. She did, however, remember seeing the two men she did not know leave the brown vehicle and go across the street. Moments later she heard breaking glass and gunshots. When asked by prosecutor Joey Oubre what she was thinking at that moment, she said she kept quiet. She simply just did what she was told to do by Bandy, she said.

"I didn't know what was going on. I didn't ask any questions," she said. "I didn't say anything."

At one point in her testimony, Peters said she was concerned about what would happen to her. After the gunshots, she saw the two men run down the street back to the brown car. They got in the brown car and both vehicles headed to LaPlace, where they dropped off the two mystery men at an apartment complex. Peters said she never left the Mustang and was the one driving.

On the trip to LaPlace, she said they had stopped to switch drivers. Justin Walker took over driving the brown car and Bandy got into the Mustang with her. She said she heard Bandy say tell Justin Walker to drive. She said they stopped at a gas station. After they dropped off the two men in LaPlace, they went back home. She and Bandy parted ways in Hammond.

In the cross examination, the defense asked if Bandy had ever left the area where the two cars were parked and Peters said no. She said she did not see a gun.

Justin Walker, who is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the case, testified Monday as well. He told the jury that Bandy, his cousin, had come to his and his mom's home. They then went to LaPlace to pick up the two men, who he said he did not know. They drove to a gravel road across the street from the Lamonte's residence. The gravel road is where he saw Peters in the separate car.

The two men left the brown SUV and crossed the street, he said. Shortly later he heard gunshots. The men returned, and the two cars left. At one point, he took over driving as the man who was driving before him nearly got into an accident. Bandy got into the Mustang, he said.

He too said he never laid eyes on the gun, though he heard someone in the backseat ask for the gun so he could toss it out the window. They went back to the LaPlace location from where the two men were picked up earlier. He and his mom went home in the brown car, and Bandy and Peters drove home in the Mustang. He said the shooting was not discussed in front of him.

In the cross examination, the defense asked several times if Walker expected to get favorable treatment regarding his pending charges, some of which are unrelated to the case, if he testified. Walker said he did not expect favorable treatment.

In his first interview with police the same year of the murder, he had lied about his whereabouts because he was scared. Then in May 2010, he gave another statement to the police with an attorney present.

Before hearing from the two witnesses, testimony included that of a pathologist about the autopsy and a multi-media analysis expert who was asked by the sheriff's office to print images from video surveillance taken from a gas station in LaPlace on Aug. 22-23, 2009.

Also the jury, heard that the casings and bullets recovered from the scene, as well as the bullet in Lamonte's body, were all 99 millimeter and all came from the same weapon, which was never located.

The trial continues today, including scheduled testimony from Benny Flowers and Alice Walker.