GRETNA, LA (WVUE) - A West Bank man pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing his longtime friend during an argument in a Harvey apartment five years ago, according to the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office.
Melvin Billiot, 52, was waiting to hear opening statements in his trial Wednesday when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
His friend, Richard Barrios, died from a single stab wound to the chest after the men had been an argument. Investigators said Barrios and Billiot had been drinking before the fight.
"I stabbed Richard, but I didn't mean to kill him," Billiot wrote on guilty plea forms.
Prosecutors said it happened in the 4200 block of la Couture Dr. After the stabbing, Billiot removed the kitchen knife and cleaned up the crime scene, which lead to his being charged with obstruction of justice for tampering with evidence to attempt to distort the criminal investigation.
Billiot and his sister, Pamela Billiot Leblanc, initially were booked by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office with obstruction of justice. They both told investigators Barrios fell and said nothing about the stabbing until emergency medical technicians found the stab wound.
Officers were able to find the knife used in the crime and blood throughout the apartment.
Billiot was later booked with the homicide. He confessed to stabbing Barrios when questioned by the sheriff's office, according to the district attorney's office.
"Richard was supposed to be Melvin's friend," Barrios' sister Santa Marie Cardenal told the court in impact testimony. "Richard and Melvin grew up together. You don't do that to a friend."
Leblanc was never formally charged in connection with the crime and later died following an illness.