Louisiana pastor facing murder charge running for Congress from jail

Louisiana

Victor was charged with murder in 2008 following the death of his 8-year-old stepson, M.L. Lloyd III.

ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, La. — A St. John the Baptist pastor whose 2014 murder conviction was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court last year is now running for Congress from his jail cell in central Louisiana while he waits for a new trial.

Errol Victor Sr., 54, qualified Thursday to run as a Republican in the 5th Congressional District for the seat left vacant when Congressman-elect Luke Letlow died of complications from COVID-19 before he could take office.

Victor is one of seven candidates vying for the seat in a special election in March. Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, is widely considered a frontrunner for the seat.

Victor was charged with murder in 2008 following the death of his 8-year-old stepson, M.L. Lloyd III. That began a six-year case against Victor and his wife Tonya, the mother of the child. The couple had to be reindicted in 2010 because of a conflict of interest for the judge. The couple later fired their attorneys and represented themselves, then skipped out on their trial.

They were arrested again in Georgia in 2012 after they were profiled on “America’s Most Wanted.” Finally at trial in 2014, Tonya Victor was found guilty of manslaughter by a unanimous jury and Errol Victor was found guilty of second-degree murder, but on a split, 10-2, vote.

After spending almost six years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2019 found nonunanimous juries unconstitutional, leading the high court to vacate Victor’s conviction in May 2020 and sent the case back to state court.

Because of a web of connections and recusals in St. John the Baptist Parish, the state attorney general stepped in to handle Victor’s prosecution in 2014 and has picked up the case again in 2020. Assistant Attorney General Grant Willis argued in July that Victor should continue to be held without bail because he failed to appear for his first trial in 2011, although he was acquitted on a failure to appear charge.

But there is confusion about where Victor should be held pending a new trial. St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre told WWL-TV “he’s still in the custody of the Department of Corrections.” But Department of Corrections spokesman Ken Pastorick said he was released back to St. John’s custody last year after the conviction was vacated.

Tregre said Victor is being held at Catahoula Correctional Center in Harrisonburg because St. John’s jail is a medium-security facility and Tregre said Victor must be held in a high-security facility. Victor’s family and the NAACP chapter in St. John have been calling for Victor to be housed closer to St. John to prepare his defense.

Victor is running for Congress in the district where he’s now in jail, the 5th Congressional District. On his qualifying papers it lists a post office box in Slidell, which is in the 1st Congressional District. And he still has loyal followers in St. John, which is in the 2nd Congressional District.

But WWL Political Analyst Clancy DuBos says to qualify to run for Congress, it doesn’t matter where Victor lives as long as it’s in the state of Louisiana. Also, DuBos says the ruling by the Supreme Court means Victor has not been convicted of a felony and is free to run for office.

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