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Man accused in Rayne teen's death served time for part in 1997 murder

Scott Cooper.jpg
Posted at 1:59 PM, May 27, 2021

Last week, Rayne Police arrested a man named Scott Allen Cooper in connection with the death of a teenager.

The victim, 17-year-old Garrett Gautreaux, a junior at Notre Dame High, was found shot to death in a pick-up truck in a Rayne parking lot. Cooper was booked with second-degree murder and remains in the Acadia Parish jail in lieu of $2 million bond.

Court records in Lafayette show it's not the first time Cooper has been accused in connection with a fatal shooting in a parking lot.

KATC Investigators reviewed court records, and obtained public records, to determine what happened in that other case.

In December 1997, a man named Earl Zenon was shot in a Lafayette drug store parking lot; he died when his car was set on fire, with him in it, in a field in Point Blue. Another man, Vince Moore, eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and armed robbery in the case, and was sentenced to 40 years in prison for Zenon's death.

An eyewitness testified that Moore went up to Zenon's car, shot him, shoved his body over, and got into the driver's seat. That witness also testified that Scott Cooper was standing at the passenger side when the shooting happened, then got into the back seat, and they drove away.Zenon's car was found later in Evangeline Parish, burned, with his body inside.

The autopsy determined that Zenon was still alive when the fire started, court records show. It also found that he was shot in the back of the head, indicating he was probably looking out the passenger window - where Cooper was standing - when he was shot.

After the body was found and arrests made, Cooper gave statements to police saying that Moore shot Zenon because he wanted the "big bag of weed" that Zenon had. He said he didn't know Moore was going to shoot Zenon. He also gave details as to what happened after the shooting, including the fire.

The men drove Zenon’s car to a house where they picked up a blanket, then drove out to Point Blue where Moore set the car - with Zenon in it, still alive - on fire. They drove back to Lafayette where they smoked the dead man’s weed, according to Cooper’s statement.

Police said it was a half-pound bag of marijuana.

Cooper was indicted on a charge of principal to first-degree murder, which was amended to principal to second-degree murder.

A jury convicted him of that charge unanimously, and he was sentenced to life in prison. He went to Angola, where he served 7 years, 4 months and 15 days, Department of Corrections records show.

He appealed his conviction because of statements made by the prosecutor, who told jurors that Moore had implicated Cooper in the crime. Moore was a hostile witness at Cooper’s trial and did not do that during his testimony, records show.

A state district judge threw out Cooper’s conviction based on those statements by the prosecutor, and Cooper was released from prison in 2008. A new trial date was set, but was then delayed for years after a lawsuit was filed over the way cases were allotted in the 15th Judicial District.

The original principal to murder charge was dismissed, and eventually in 2011 Cooper pleaded no contest - a plea that allows a defendant to agree to the charge but not admit guilt - to a charge of principal to obstruction of justice.

At the time of his 2012 sentencing, the court noted that he was married, father of five children, employed with Frank's Casing Crew and attended church regularly. Interestingly, Cooper was 17 years old at the time this crime was committed, and argued that his age should temper his sentencing.

Cooper never admitted to knowing that Moore was going to kill Zenon, although he did admit to arranging to purchase marijuana from the victim.

The judge who sentenced him noted that Cooper had focused “like a laser” on himself and his family after leaving prison, but noted this is not evidence of rehabilitation. True rehabilitation involves remorse, the judge said, and the judge found that the only thing Cooper seemed remorseful about was the impact this case has had on his own personal circumstances.

He sentenced Cooper to 10 years and six months in prison, with credit for time served. Because of time served, DOC records indicate that Cooper served 4 more days in the parish jail.

DOC records show that Cooper was released from probation in April 2015.

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