Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office on Thursday (Aug. 1) announced it has secured 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 (pictured above left), 18-year-old Byrielle Hebert (above right) and 16-year-old Alvin Robinson (not pictured).
Persons convicted of first-degree murder in which the death penalty is not sought face a mandatory lifetime prison sentence without the possibility of parole. 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.
The couple was fired upon after coming out of their home in the 2700 block of Cleveland Avenue to investigate a car alarm sounding shortly before 10 p.m. New Orleans police said the Townsends discovered Pipkins rummaging through their automobile and attempted to hold him inside. Pipkins initiated an exchange of gunfire at the behest of his accomplices to facilitate their escape.
Danny 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.
The special grand jury additionally charged Pipkins and Hebert with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for a similar incident the previous night, on May 7, 2019.
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 A Luck Tavern in Lakeview near the corner of Homedale and Catina streets.
“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. As that is not a crime of violence eligible for transfer to adult court, the charged juvenile’s identity is shielded by state law and that charge will be adjudicated in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court.
Assistant District Attorneys Alex Calenda and Irena Zajickova presented the case to the special grand jury.
To view the indictment, click the link below:
- Main Office
- 619 South White Street
- New Orleans LA 70119
- (504) 822-2414