New Orleans woman sentenced to life for fatal stabbing of boyfriend

Octavia Gary, a 35-year-old New Orleans woman convicted last month of fatally stabbing her boyfriend, Anderson Soco, in April 2013 after he returned home from the Uptown bar Cooter Brown’s, was sentenced to life in prison Friday.

Criminal District Court Judge Benedict Willard handed the mandatory sentence to Gary as Soco’s family members and Gary’s mother looked on from opposite sides of the courtroom. Willard rejected a plea by Gary’s attorneys for a new trial.

Prosecutors said Soco, 40, bled out slowly from a gash to his chest that Gary inflicted in the last of a series of assaults, both verbal and physical, on a man described by witnesses as docile, accommodating and relentlessly abused.

According to testimony at a trial in December, Gary called 911 about 90 minutes after the stabbing as Soco lay bleeding beside her. She questioned Soco and relayed information about his injuries to a police dispatcher.

Gary’s defense attorney, Michael Idoyaga, highlighted that exchange to bolster a claim that Soco had been dropped off at the house already stabbed. But that argument failed to persuade a jury, which convicted Gary in a unanimous verdict after deliberating for about two hours.

Soco was stabbed through the ribs, a knife clipping his heart and drawing a slow leak into his lungs before the blood spilled out, prosecutors said.

A key witness, neighbor Lillie Love, recounted seeing Soco step outside and sit on the stoop of the couple’s Green Street home in the Leonidas neighborhood, holding his chest before returning inside to the sound of a continuing argument.

Love choked up and said little on the witness stand, but her appearance allowed prosecutors to play a recording of an interview with a detective in which Love described repeated abuse of Soco by Gary.

“They fight every day of the week. It’s mostly Octavia beats him up,” Love told the detective. “I never seen a woman beat on a man (like that), and he don’t raise his hands.”

Less than a month before the stabbing, Gary had pushed Soco through a glass window, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Guillory told the jury.

Gary, who rejected an offer to plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a 20-year sentence, did not testify at the trial.

A brother of Soco, Irvin Jackson, said Friday that the life sentence for Gary brought the family relief.

“No sentence can justify him losing his life, but this puts some peace to our souls,” Jackson said. “He was a good guy. He loved somebody who wouldn’t love him back. We did get justice. They got it right this time.”

Gary’s mother, Sherry Hodges, reacted bitterly to the outcome, saying Gary had a promising future as a nurse.

Hodges, whose son, Vonche Gary, was gunned down at age 18 in 2004, said Soco was no angel. If her daughter stabbed him, which she denied, it wasn’t to kill him, she said.

“I think they got into an argument,” Hodges said. “I just think it was unfair. That don’t make sense to have a life sentence based on domestic fighting.”

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.

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