August 30, 2023

Lacombe Man Pleads Guilty and is Sentenced to 50 Years in 2021 Tammany Trace Rape

District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that on Tuesday, August 29, 2023, Rene Murrell, age 48 of Lacombe, pled guilty to attempted first degree rape and sexual batteryand was sentenced by District Judge Raymond Childress to 50 years in prison without parole.

On July 4, 2021, the 66-year-old victim was riding her bicycle on the Tammany Trace in Lacombe when she encountered the defendant who was walking on the Trace.  As she passed him, the defendant asked her for a cigarette.  She told him she did not have one. The defendant then ran towards her and knocked her off her bicycle.  He pushed her face into the dirt and told her to shut up and keep her head down.  He then sexually assaulted her as she begged him to stop. After assaulting her, the defendant fled.  Two “good Samaritans” stopped to help the victim and while doing so, noticed a cellphone on the ground. The victim said the phone did not belong to her. 

The police were summoned to the scene and began an investigation.  Detectives were able to determine the abandoned cell phone belonged to the defendant.  The defendant was located and when questioned, denied being on the Trace.  Detectives secured surveillance video from nearby businesses which captured the defendant in the area of the Trace during the time frame of the crime.  Laboratory analysis of evidence collected from the victim’s body and clothing confirmed the presence of the defendant’s DNA under the victim’s fingernails, on her shorts, tank top, and undergarments.

The defendant’s criminal history includes five prior sexual assaults, all of which occurred in St. Bernard Parish. In 1996 he pled to simple battery after he forcefully pulled a woman to the floor by her hair and groped her breasts while she shopped in a retail store. Also in 1996, he pled guilty to simple battery after having grabbed the breasts of a woman and biting her neck while she stood at an ATM.  Again, in 1996, he pled guilty to simple battery of a juvenile after he grabbed her breasts and buttocks while she was riding her bike to school. In 1998, he pled guilty to an attempted forcible rape of a woman. That incident occurred at a school where the victim was employed. He grabbed her, forced her to the floor, punched her and fondled her breasts and genitalia. In 2008, he pled guilty to an attempted forcible rape of a woman who he assaulted as she entered her vehicle. He tore off her jeans and grabbed her genitalia.

Assistant District Attorney Amanda Gritten prosecuted the case.  The victim chose not to be present in Court for the sentencing, saying she did not want to give the defendant “another second of [her] time,” but she requested that Mrs. Gritten directly relay to the defendant that, “today’s sentence is for every woman in St. Tammany Parish.”