Guilty verdict in robbery, murder of Metairie man
ST. CHARLES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Jerel Anthony Smith faces life in prison without parole for robbing and killing 28-year-old Ryan Dubuc January of last year. For Dubuc's family and friends, the conviction marks the end of a painful journey.
"Today was some sort of closure that we can close this chapter and get back to celebrating Ryan," said Ryan's cousin, Michael Dubuc.
It was standing room only in St. Charles Criminal Court. The jury deliberated less than an hour before finding 32-year-old Smith guilty of second-degree murder and armed robbery.
"I think the quickness of the verdict helped kind of restore some faith in humanity for us, because I know there's not a lot of people out there like Ryan, but I don't think there's a lot of people out there like this criminal, either," Michael said.
For Ryan's family, it marks the end of a difficult year and a half, their lives scheduled in 30-day increments around criminal court hearings.
"I find myself every month, for a year and a half, making a point to make eye contact with this man, and I think what I was hoping for was to see maybe one ounce of compassion. And zero," said Michael.
Investigators say Dubuc was on his way to work when he ran into Smith at a gas station. Michael says testimony indicated that Smith was looking for a ride and Ryan agreed.
Dubuc's body was found Jan. 9 along Louisiana 3160 in Hahnville. He had been shot multiple times.
"That's the person Ryan was is he never met a stranger, and he was going to help anybody he could, and it's just that it's too sad there's not more Ryan Dubucs," Michael said.
Michael says his family is forever indebted to the team that investigated and prosecuted Ryan's case.
"They have just been so supportive and understanding, and I think my family will always be thankful," he said.
Though their lives are forever changed, Michael says he and his family look forward to putting Ryan's brutal murder behind them and honoring his life.
"People loved this guy. Since he was a kid, he had this natural charismatic personality that lit up a room, and he'd have strangers laughing within minutes. You can't learn that. You're born with that, and he had it," Michael explained.
In a statement, St. Charles Parish District attorney Joel Chaisson said, in part, "to say that I am happy with the verdict handed down today would be an understatement...Jerel Smith's actions on January 9th 2017 were evil, callous and calculated."