Killer gets life without parole

Mario Lavell Cockerham, 27 years of age, of Houston, Texas, was convicted by a Liberty County jury of Capital Murder and sentenced to Life without parole in prison by 253rd District Court Judge Chap B. Cain, III, on April 17.

A jury was selected to hear the capital murder case against Mario Lavell Cockerham in the 253rd District Court, the Honorable Chap B. Cain, III, presiding, on April 13.

Assistant District Attorneys Ragis Fontenot and Anne Streit began the presentation of the State’s evidence on April 14. Evidence presentation was completed on April 17.

The evidence revealed that on or about March 23, 2007, Mario Lavell Cockerham murdered Jenna Yvonne Ross, a six-month-old baby girl of Daytons, by suffocation.

The evidence also revealed that Cockerham, who resided in Houston, was Jenna’s father and was married to Renita Cockerham.

It was also revealed that during the same criminal episode, Cockerham gravely assaulted Alicia Yvonne Ross, Jenna’s mother, by stabbing her multiple times. Due to the injuries suffered by Alicia Yvonne Ross, her survival was questionable at the time.

Cockerham was arrested on the afternoon of March 23, 2007. A Liberty County

grand jury indicted Cockerham for the capital murder of Jenna Yvonne Ross on May 2, 2007. During the investigation, the Dayton Police Department sought and received assistance from Baytown Police Department crime scene investigators, the Texas Rangers and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. Although diligent and exhaustive efforts were made by investigators, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s laboratory analysis of the evidence collected revealed no physical evidence connecting Mario Lavell Cockerham to the crime.

Also during the investigation, Texas Ranger Frank Huff sought the assistance of Fort Bend County Deputy Sheriff Keith Pikett and his scent discriminating bloodhounds. During the trial, Pikett’s testimony revealed that Cockerham’s scent was detected by the bloodhounds on an item of clothing worn by Jenna Yvonne Ross at the time of her death. Additionally, the bloodhounds found Cockerham’s scent on a telephone and the contents of Alicia Ross’ wallet that had been recovered from the crime scene. Key testimony at the trial was also given by Alicia Yvonne Ross who identified Mario Lavell Cockerham as the perpetrator and painstakingly described to the jury the details of how the capital murder was committed.

Having begun their deliberations at approximately 2 p.m. on April 17, the jury deliberated approximately 90 minutes before unanimously convicting Mario Lavell Cockerham of capital murder as charged. Thereafter, presiding Judge Chap B. Cain, III, assessed an automatic Life sentence without parole against Cockerham.

District Attorney Mike Little stated “We in the District Attorney’s Office are very grateful for the conviction of Capital Murder handed down by the jury in this case. The jury patiently and attentively listened to many days of testimony and then carefully considered all of the evidence and testimony prior to reaching their verdict. We are pleased that the jury recognized the severity of this horrible crime and acted accordingly. We are also very pleased with the sentence handed down by Judge Cain. The sentence of Life without parole insures that Cockerham will spend the rest of his natural life in prison. Certainly, Ragis and Anne conducted an extremely thorough and very competent prosecution in this case. The people of Liberty County should be very proud to have attorneys of this caliber representing them in our district courts. However, we in the District Attorney’s Office could not successfully try cases of this nature without excellent investigations such as the one in this case. Chief Pete Douzat and the Dayton Police Department did a tremendous job in not only conducting an excellent investigation and providing exemplary trial testimony but also in remaining truly committed to bringing Mario Lavell Cockerham to justice throughout the entire criminal justice process. This case was a textbook example of law enforcement teamwork as revealed by the very able assistance provided by Texas Ranger Frank Huff, the Baytown Police Department, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Last but certainly not least, we are very hopeful that the sentence of Life without parole handed down to Jenna’s killer will provide some degree of consolation to her grieving family. Although nothing can bring Jenna back to her family, they can perhaps receive some solace in knowing that the one who took her from them will never breathe free air again.”

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