GRETNA, La. – A man on trial in the death and dismemberment of a Bourbon Street stripper has denied killing her and cutting up her body.
"I never dismembered this woman," Terry Speaks told jurors after taking the witness stand Friday.
Speaks is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Jaren Lockhart, whose body parts began washing ashore on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in June 2012.
Speaks said he and co-defendant Margaret Sanchez, his former girlfriend, last saw victim Jaren Lockhart after arranging for Lockhart to go to a party with a stranger named Nick.
Prosecutors say Speaks and Sanchez, who is to be tried later, asked several French Quarter dancers to go with them for a private party early on June 6, 2012. They say Lockhart was the only one who accepted.
Speaks insisted that Lockhart went off with the man named Nick and that was the last time he saw her.
If convicted of second-degree murder, Speaks would face a life sentence.
Speaks, who also is charged with obstruction of justice in the case, initially tried to represent himself in the trial but after one day handed the case back to his defense attorneys.
Prosecutor Doug Freese painted a portrait of Speaks as a serial liar who came up with stories to avoid conviction. Freese said Speaks made false statements to investigators when he was arrested six days after the slaying.
Evidence in the case includes security camera footage showing Speaks, Sanchez and the victim together. However, there was a lack of physical evidence linking the defendants to the crime.
"That's why I wanted to testify to tell what actually happened," Speaks said. "How can you have any evidence when we didn't do it?"