Man convicted of viciously stabbing Leesville grocery manager to death denied release
Published 10:56 am Tuesday, September 20, 2022
A Vernon Parish man convicted of brutally murdering the manager of a Leesville grocery store in 2001 was denied his request to commute his life sentence Monday by the Louisiana State Parole Board.
John Morott, now 42, appeared before the board to request his sentence be reduced so that he could be considered for release from Angola State Prison, where he has been serving a life sentence since 2002.
Morott has thus far served 21 years of his life sentence that Vernon Parish District Attorney Terry Lambright said Morott pled guilty to in an agreement with the Vernon Parish District Attorney’s office in order to avoid the death penalty.
Lambright traveled to Baton Rouge Monday to present his “adamant opposition” in person to the board, and he told the American Press he was pleased with the ruling.
“There are those individuals who should remain in prison and never be released; Mr. Morott is one of those individuals,” Lambright stated.
During Monday’s hearing, Lambright recounted to the board the gruesome killing of 41 year-old Stephen van Rogers, who worked as the manager of the Stanley “Super D” grocery store at the time of his death in April 2001.
According to Lambright, Morott, and his accomplice, Michael Hood, “tricked” van Rogers into pulling over the night of April 16 as he was driving home from his night shift at the store. The men then forced van Rogers to return to the store where they had him open the store’s safe. The men then bound van Rogers with duct tape before stabbing him to death 35 times. Lambright said the force of the blows was so horrific that the blade broke off in van Rogers’ skull.
“This was a horrific crime, looking back you can see that. John Morott doesn’t deserve a second chance,” Lambright told the parole board.
Morott’s family spoke in favor of Morott, saying he was a “changed person” and his legal representative, Kerry Myers said Morott “has done everything he can do to be a better person”.
“We believe in John. He has worked hard for one thing and that is to be a better person and for redemption, whether that redemption comes or not. We ask the board to consider the hard work that he has done,” Myers stated.
Morott testified to the parole board that he has participated in several faith-based programs and that he has obtained multiple certificates in carpentry and construction work so that he could find employment if released.
Board members unanimously denied the request, with all citing the intensity of the crime.
“I don’t understand why you would duct tape legs, hands, feet, body and then deliberately stab a person who is helpless and has done everything you told him to do, and then you stab him 35 times. I don’t understand why you would do that,” board member Alvin Roche’, Jr. stated.
Despite the denial this week, board members insinuated that there was “hope” for Morott in the future, despite the gruesome crime he had committed.
“I do believe that you’re gonna get a favorable vote at some point, I just don’t think based upon the number of years that you’ve currently served, that today is the day,” board member Tony Marabella stated.
“I do think that you’re doing extremely well, I hope you continue to do that, and I don’t think it’s going to be that much longer before you come back again before this board that you will get a favorable vote, it’s just not today,” Marabella added.
After the hearing, Lambright voiced his displeasure at board members suggesting Morott will be ultimately released.
“When people commit this kind of violent crime, they should not get out of prison. This state should not be releasing violent offenders, which it is currently doing and has been for several years. This policy must be changed or more of this state’s citizens will be living like the citizens of New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and other places with such policies. I will continue to fight for justice and to keep people safe,” Lambright stated.
Earlier this year, the parole board voted to release Morott’s accomplice, Michael Hood, from prison after Hood had served only a fraction of his 150-year sentence for his role in the murder.