Trendall Matthews, 25, of Jackson, pleaded guilty Monday, June 20, to two counts of first-degree murder in the brutal and bloody murders of her cousin, Jessica Johnson Palmer, 23, and her son Juan Palmer, Jr., 3, plus the attempted murders of Palmer's other two children.
Matthews was given life in prison on each murder charge and 50 years on each attempted-murder charge to run concurrently by State Judge Tony Marabella.
Matthews agreed to testify against her boyfriend, Dominique Smith, 30, of Wilson, who was also her co-defendant in this case. Matthews's trial was to begin in July. She will now spend life in prison at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel.
Smith was given the same offer as Matthews: plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Smith failed to respond before the offer expired this past Monday.
Smith and Matthews were each charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the May 4, 2008, grisly double-slaying of Palmer and her son. They were also charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder of Palmer's 4-year-old daughter, Lindsay Johnson, whose throat was slit, and her 7-month-old sister, who was not injured but left in the bushes for dead.
The bodies of Palmer and Palmer, Jr., were discovered May 5, 2008, at BREC’s Doyle’s Bayou Park in Zachary by a maintenance worker cutting grass.
Detectives say the killings were the result of a complicated love triangle gone terribly wrong. Smith, who is the former boyfriend of Palmer and the father of the 4-year-old but not the infant, was dating Matthews, Palmer’s second-cousin, at the time of the slayings, investigators said.
“They actually lured Jessica to the park along with her children, where the killings took place,” said East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn-Hicks at the time of the murders.
Authorities say they believe Smith and Matthews lured Palmer and her children to Doyle’s Bayou Park, located at 7801 Pride-Port Hudson Road in Zachary, where the killings took place and the two young girls spent the night.
Johnson, whose throat was slit, was praised by deputies for taking care of her baby sister and carrying her out of the woods to the front of the park where they could be found by a BREC worker, said Sheriff Sid Gautreaux in 2008.
Smith’s vehicle and keys were found at the park which later led detectives to his whereabouts. However, it was the incredible story of the scared 4-year-old that detectives say was the key to the arrests of Smith and Matthews.