St. James man pleads guilty to second degree murder of stepdaughter

St. James man pleads guilty to second degree murder of stepdaughter

ST. JAMES, LA (WVUE) - A St. James Parish man pleaded guilty to killing his 12-year-old stepdaughter in 2014.

St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin says this is still the most gruesome case he's investigated.

"We wanted to see it happen. It was a welcome end to what would've been a long, stressful trial," Martin said.

Talaija Dorsey was just 12 when investigators say 47-year-old John Celestine Jr. sexually assaulted and murdered her.

"It had a big impact on our community, and especially in that area. She was just a beautiful child, and it's a great loss to her family and the community," Martin said.

He says this case shook the community, and residents were heavily involved.

"I don't think there's been a case that I've worked in my 27 years as Sheriff where I did not go to that area of the parish or even outskirts of east bank, far edges of the parish where people did not ask what's the status of that particular case," Martin said.

He says they utilized all their resources to find Dorsey.

"Everybody worked, Sheriff on down. This is a small community, when we have a major crime like this, it's all hands on deck. And we didn't stop, and we weren't gonna stop until we found her," Martin said.

Martin says he found Dorsey's badly decomposed body about a week later in a wooded area off of LA 3127, something he says, still sticks with him to this day.

"This case kept me up more than any case I've worked," Martin said.

Martin said he's glad Dorsey's family and the community now has closure.

"This was a tough case and we needed to see it come to a close and end it in a way, a little hopeful that's he's going to spend the rest of his life in jail," Martin said.

However, one question remains - due to the condition of Dorsey's body, the exact cause of her death is still unknown.

"I don't think we're going to know unless he gives it up. Obviously, we tried to talk to him now that it's over," said Martin, "I'm hopeful that that happens. I think that that would bring final closure at least to what actually happened to Talaija," Martin said.

According to the Ascension Parish District Attorney’s Office, a judge ordered Celestine to life in prison without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of his sentence.

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