Kayla Giles sentenced to life plus 30 years

Cathy Pearson, the mother of Thomas Coutee Jr., shows off her shirt shortly after Rapides...
Cathy Pearson, the mother of Thomas Coutee Jr., shows off her shirt shortly after Rapides Parish Judge Greg Beard sentenced Kayla Giles to life in prison plus 30 years for second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.(Credit: KALB)
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 4:39 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2022 at 5:48 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Rapides Parish Judge Greg Beard has sentenced Kayla Giles to life in prison plus 30 years for second-degree murder and obstruction of justice in the September 2018 shooting death of her estranged husband, Thomas Coutee, Jr., during a custody exchange in a Walmart parking lot.

Giles will serve both sentences consecutively due to the separate nature of both crimes.

”We think that the judge’s sentence was appropriate,” said Assistant Attorney General Joseph Lebeau. “I thought he did an excellent job of reviewing the facts of the case and the evidence that was presented in the trial. It was an appropriate sentence based on the facts in this case and the conduct of the defendant.”

Before Beard handed down the sentence, Coutee Jr.’s family took to the witness stand to give victim impact statements.

Coutee Jr.’s mother, Cathy Pearson, started her testimony by describing her son and his personality, saying everyone who came into contact with Coutee, Jr. loved him.

At this point, Jane Hogan, Giles’ new attorney, objected to her statement, arguing that the victim impact had to be about the impact the crime had on the family, not about the victim himself or include any attacks directed at Giles herself.

Thomas Coutee, Sr. shouted out, “She’s a murderer,” to which Beard had to warn the audience they could not make outbursts or they would be removed from the courtroom. Still, Beard overruled Hogan’s objection.

Pearson continued, describing how she wakes up at night with nightmares of her son gasping for breath on the concrete and how she found out about the shooting from a news alert when shopping in the mall. In the news alert, she saw Giles and Coutee, Jr’s vehicle surrounded by yellow police tape, and she began calling her son repeatedly, without receiving a response.

At one point during her statement, Pearson remarked on Giles directly, “She is Satan himself in a female body.”

She said she will never find closure because there are just “some things you can’t do through a casket.”

Pearson pleaded with Beard to give Giles the maximum sentence for both crimes.

Coutee’s sister, Megan Wiggins, testified next about Coutee’s love for his daughter and even for Giles.

“He loved you, too, Kayla,” said Wiggins. “Why’d you have to shoot him?”

She said she felt guilt over his death because something like that should have happened to her, not to “the good son.”

Coutee, Sr., did not give a verbal statement, but Lebeau read a letter he had submitted. In that letter, Coutee Sr. recalls the day of the shooting, waiting for his son to arrive at Chuck E. Cheese for Coutee, Jr. and Giles’ shared daughter’s birthday party, the reason the two met at the Walmart parking lot for the custody exchange. He said he wondered and worried why Coutee, Jr. was so late, a worry met with a phone call from Pearson saying their son had been shot.

Coutee, Sr. described the overwhelming emotions he has felt since the day of the shooting, saying “I’ve lost the ability to be the person I was before.”

He also requested Beard give the maximum sentence, saying Giles does not deserve the privilege of being free ever again.

The defense submitted a sentencing memorandum, which included attached letters testifying on Giles’ behalf. Beard read aloud a portion of a letter submitted by Michael Jones, Giles’ uncle, who said they must trust in the trial process. He also said, “Two families lost two great people.”

Giles declined to give a statement of her own, as Hogan advised against it.

Beard did make remarks on behalf of the court and says that the court observed no emotion at all throughout the trial, even when her oldest daughter testified. He said any emotion at all would have been expected.

Prior to sentencing, the court took up two motions filed by Hogan, including a motion for a new trial. Beard denied both motions, which Hogan objected to.

Giles has another pending in the East Baton Rouge court system, but Lebeau was unable to comment on its progress because he is not the attorney assigned to the case.

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