A Eureka man will stand trial for the alleged murder of Old Town resident Raymond Prudhomme, found dead Feb. 22 with a slashed throat and severed jugular vein.
Yesterday visiting Judge Marilyn Miles, after hearing police testimony in Albert Durant Kress’ preliminary hearing, held Kress to answer on a charge of murder with personal use of a knife. Kress is suspected of killing the 62-year-old Prudhomme during an altercation in Prudhomme’s apartment.
It’s believed Prudhomme died on Feb. 15, one day after Kress, 48, was released from jail and one day before he was arrested again on unrelated charges. His arrest for the killing was on March 12.
Eureka police Detective Richard “Rick” Bise, who went to Prudhomme’s apartment after the body was discovered, said Prudhomme was lying dead on his right side under an open window, a blue pillowcase pulled over his head and face. When a sergeant from the coroner’s office removed the pillowcase, he and Bise saw a neck wound that appeared to have some mold on it.
“We figured the body had been there for at least a couple of days,” Bise testified under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Luke Bernthal.
Bise said there was dried blood on Prudhomme’s face, neck and hands. Blood was present throughout the apartment, including inside the dead man’s wallet.
In the bathroom, “the blood had been diluted with water by someone washing their hands in the sink,” the detective said.
Although no-one witnessed Prudhomme being stabbed, two people were in the apartment and saw the altercation that allegedly led to his death.
Bise said a 19-year-old woman, Mariah Morgan, told police she met Prudhomme on Feb. 15 when they were both getting a free meal in Old Town. Morgan described Prudhomme as very old and fragile, needing a walker and a cane to get around. He asked her to come to his apartment and “smoke,” and she agreed.
While there, a man she called A.D. arrived, saying he had a business proposition for Prudhomme. He gave Prudhomme $20 and said he wanted to stay there. Then Prudhomme left, leaving Morgan alone with A.D.
At that point, Morgan told Bise, A.D. threw towels over sprinkler heads in the apartment, apparently believing they were cameras. Todd Newby, a man who was staying with Prudhomme, was down on the street throwing objects at the window, demanding to be buzzed in to the apartment. A.D. responded by barricading the door and telling Morgan to turn the music to full blast.
“He had a knife in his hand and he was practicing with the knife,” Morgan told Bise.
Then Prudhomme returned home, accompanied by Newby. Prudhomme was upset about the barricaded door and loud music, telling A.D. he had to leave.
A.D. became angry and “claimed he had contracts out on his head and (Prudhomme) wanted him go outside so they could get him,” Morgan told Bise.
A.D. was also accusing Prudhomme of drugging and raping women. At that point, Morgan said, A.D. pushed Prudhomme and “he went fucking flying into the wall.” A.D. had a knife in his hand, she said.
Morgan said she went into the bathroom, hiding out there for a few minutes while listening to the sounds of stomping, thumping and bodies hitting the wall. When the noise stopped she emerged to see Prudhomme lying in the southeast corner of the room, and there was “a lot of blood.” She believed Prudhomme was alive because she heard wheezing.
Newby told police he saw the suspect punch Prudhomme, who fell unconscious and started “snoring.”
Both Morgan and Newby left shortly afterward, although A.D. had asked Morgan to stay.
Later that day the apartment manager, Michael Hansen, saw a torn-up dollar bill outside Prudhomme’s apartment door. He told police he knocked on the door and an African-American man opened it. The man explained he had torn up the dollar bill as some kind of ritual for celebrating a birthday.
EPD Senior Detective Ron Harpham, who interviewed Hansen, said Hansen told him he looked into the apartment and saw Prudhomme lying on the floor in the corner.
“The black male said Mr. Prudhomme was asleep,” Harpham said. “(Hansen) later found him dead in the same spot.”
Hansen made a “strong” but not positive photo identification of Kress as the man he spoke to outside Prudhomme’s apartment.
Harpham said Hansen said Kress “could very well be the guy,” but he would have to hear his voice.
Police found three personal checks belonging to Kress in the apartment. There were also four receipts from Feb. 15: one from McDonald’s, one from Chase Bank, one from the Dollar Tree at Eureka Mall and one from a market on Wabash Avenue.
Harpham said the video surveillance from McDonald’s and the Dollar Tree had already been overridden when he checked at those places. But a video at “Stop and Shop” Market on Wabash clearly shows Kress trying to use a debit card that was declined. When Harpham said it was unknown whose card it was, Kress spoke up: “It was mine. It was mine.”
When police interviewed Kress, he admitted pushing Prudhomme but said he tried to catch him when he fell. He also acknowledged he had a knife in his hand, but only because he was a self-defense instructor and had been showing Morgan how to handle a knife. He told officers he stayed in the apartment for seven to eight hours after the altercation.
When he left the next morning to buy coffee, “Ray didn’t look good.”
During his cross-examinations of the detectives, Public Defender Marek Reavis focused on Kress’s mental state at the time. He raised the possibility that Kress had suffered a stroke or a series of strokes, and witnesses said he was “talking nonsense” and seemed confused.
Morgan, when showed photos of A.D., Newby and Prudhomme, was only able to identify Prudhomme.
Morgan told detectives she didn’t report the incident because A.D. threatened that “Anybody talks on me, I’m going to kill them.”
During a recorded phone call to her jailed boyfriend, Morgan said “God have mercy on the witnesses.”
At this point law enforcement has no DNA or fingerprint evidence, as no results have come in from the Department of Justice.
Kress was evaluated for mental competence after his arrest and was ruled competent. During Monday’s hearing he became agitated at times, talking excitedly to Reavis. Once he held up a document, trying to show it to the judge.
His arraignment is scheduled for July 1.