DA: 3 teens indicted for murder, attempted murder in Mid-City

17-year-old Emanuel Pipkins (left) 18-year-old Byrielle Hebert have been charged with murder.
17-year-old Emanuel Pipkins (left) 18-year-old Byrielle Hebert have been charged with murder.(Orleans Parish DA)
Updated: Aug. 1, 2019 at 11:24 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday (Aug. 1) non-capital first-degree murder indictments against three New Orleans teens involved in the killing of Zelda Townsend during a botched May 8 car burglary in Mid-City.

An Orleans Parish special grand jury late Wednesday returned the first-degree murder charges against 17-year-old Emanuel Pipkins, 18-year-old Byrielle Hebertand 16-year-old Alvin Robinson.

The suspects face mandatory life in prison if convicted. Because of their ages at the time of offense, Pipkins and Robinson, if convicted, each would be entitled to a sentencing hearing where the trial court would sentence them to life without parole or to life with parole eligibility after 25 years.

The trio also was charged with attempted first-degree murder for the shooting of the slain woman's husband, Danny Townsend, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said.

The couple was fired at after coming out of their home in the 2700 block of Cleveland Ave. to after a car alarm sounded shortly before 10 p.m.

New Orleans police said the Townsends discovered Pipkins rummaging through their automobile and attempted to hold him inside. Pipkins fired at the victims to at the urging of his alleged accomplices to help the escape, prosecutors said.

Townsend was shot in the arm but survived. Pipkins soon arrived at a local hospital with a gunshot graze wound to his back. But Zelda Townsend was shot in the head and died at the scene.

Pipkins and Hebert were also charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for a similar incident the previous night, on May 7. Investigators determined through ballistics testing that the gun Pipkins used to kill Zelda Townsend was the same weapon used to shoot at two people who interrupted another auto burglary by the teens outside the Lots of Luck Lounge in the 200 blk. of Homedale St.

"The tragic murder of Zelda Townsend, a 63-year-old wife and grandmother, was not simply part of some one-off, youthful indiscretion," Cannizzaro said. "This investigation has revealed that these teens were engaged in a deliberate, planned series of car burglaries in which they used stolen cars and were willing to shoot people without hesitation once they were cornered."

The 12-count indictment charges Pipkins and Hebert each with the first-degree murder of Zelda Townsend, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, obstruction of justice in a homicide investigation, conspiracy to obstruct justice, two counts of illegally discharging a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, auto theft, possession of stolen things (a 2015 Audi sedan), simple burglary and conspiracy to commit simple burglary of automobiles.

Robinson is charged with the first-degree murder of Zelda Townsend and the attempted first-degree murder of her husband.

A known juvenile co-conspirator is charged with conspiracy to commit simple burglary of automobiles.

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