Inmate who died in JPSO custody identified by family as convicted killer Johnell Walker

Found guilty of Father’s Day 2015 double murder, he was awaiting transfer to Angola
Published: Oct. 23, 2021 at 9:01 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Jefferson Parish Correctional Center inmate who died in custody Friday night (Oct. 22) has been identified by family members as convicted killer Johnell Walker.

Walker, 27, was in the parish lockup awaiting transfer to Angola, nine days after he received two life sentences plus 50 years for his role in a Father’s Day triple-shooting that left two men dead and a third gravely wounded inside a Harvey apartment in 2015.

Family members said Walker was not distressed or suicidal over the sentence, but rather was optimistic about his chances of appealing his Aug. 21 conviction. Some relatives had even arrived from California this weekend to pool funds toward hiring an attorney on Monday to handle Walker’s appeal. They are left planning his funeral instead.

“We talked a couple days ago and his spirits were good,” said Walker’s girlfriend, Chanel Smith. “He knew he was gonna come home.”

According to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office, jailers found two inmates who were not cellmates unresponsive in the lockup Friday at 8:20 p.m. Both were rushed to the hospital, agency spokesman Capt. Jason Rivarde said, but only one could be revived. That surviving inmate was not identified and his condition was not disclosed.

The inmate who died was Walker, Smith said, based on the call his mother Priscilla Walker Ayche received from the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s office a little before 11 p.m. Friday. They said the coroner’s office provided no details about the suspected manner of Walker’s death, which will be determined by autopsy and toxicology testing. But the sheriff’s office said in a statment that “foul play is not currently suspected.”

Smith said the family is suspicious about Walker’s death, and won’t easily accept if an explanation of a narcotics overdose is offered.

“Intentional? No, not intentional,” Walker’s stepfather Medric Ayche said.

“I don’t want to say accidental, either,” Walker’s mother said.

Smith said she was certain her boyfriend would not have taken his own life, and his brother Donald Barnes agreed.

“I feel like somebody has to be held accountable for my brother’s death,” Barnes said. “If it was somebody else, you would do the same. It’s just impossible to see my brother die and he’s supposed to be in a jail run by the government. He died, and y’all watching. Y’all know and don’t got no answers for me?”

Ayche said that if drugs are to blame for his stepson’s death, the sheriff’s office has an obligation to determine their source and help prosecute those responsible.

“How did he get the drugs to overdose in jail?” Ayche asked. “Because it doesn’t make no sense. Only way he could have gotten it was one of y’all deputies.”

Walker was the last of four defendants to be convicted for roles in the Father’s Day murders of six years ago. Prosecutors convicted Walker after previously getting guilty verdicts against his two main accomplices -- 29-year-old Jacobie Green and 33-year-old Dartanya Spottsville -- in their separate trials in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Spottsville is awaiting a retrial after his conviction was vacated on appeal for not being delivered by a unanimous jury.

Each was found guilty of the killings inside a Harvey apartment in the 1600 block of Apache Drive, where cousins Johnell Ovide, 23, and Trammell Marshall, 21, were inside with two others on the night of June 21, 2015. Spottsville, Green and Walker opened fire, killing the cousins and wounding another man who survived gunshots to his face and shoulder, prosecutors alleged.

After a four-day trial in August 2021, the jury in Walker’s case deliberated just three hours before concluding he was guilty. He was sentenced Oct. 13 and awaiting transfer to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Rivarde said it was not unusual that an inmate still had not been transferred to state prison nine days after sentencing.

“It all depends on when DOC (the state Department of Corrections) comes to get the inmate,” Rivarde said.

Fox 8 reporter Kaitlin Rust contributed to this story.

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