SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Family members sat stoically in the courtroom Thursday as prosecutors in the DeWayne Willie Watkins double murder trial showed the jury photos of the inside the burned-out Kia containing the bodies of Heather and Kelly Jose.

The Shreveport couple had been shot to death, their bodies left in the car to burn.

On the stand, a Shreveport police crime scene investigator explained what the image showed, because the bodies were nearly unrecognizable to the untrained eye.

Heather and Kelly Jose’s bodies were found in a burning car in the Queensborough neighborhood on Nov. 8, 2018. (File photo)

Prosecutors say Watkins, 37, shot the Joses after they gave him a ride from Mall St. Vincent and withdrew money from an ATM for him on the night of the slayings before burning their bodies inside a vehicle in the carport of a vacant home in the Queensborough neighborhood in an attempt to destroy evidence.

Caddo Parish Assistant District Attorney Bill Edwards told the jury during opening statements that the State believes Watkins dumped the .22 caliber gun used to kill the couple into a bucket of water inside a home down the street from where the Joses’ charred bodies were found.

In the defense’s opening statement, attorney Mariah Holder of New Orleans emphasized Watkins’ innocence, claiming although the Joses did give Watkins a ride, they were alive and well when they dropped him off at a home on Penick Street about a block and a half from where their charred bodies were later found.

The defense also claimed the prosecution’s witnesses were criminals, one of whom had a warrant for his arrest for aggravated battery after shooting his girlfriend in the arm during a domestic incident.

The prosecution made no bones about some of the witnesses’ criminal records, with Edwards saying, “You can’t choose your witnesses.”

Two witnesses were called out-of-place following opening statements because of availability issues. One was Shreveport Sgt. Nick Ardoin, who at the time of the Jose murders was also an agent for the U. S. Marshal’s Office; the other, Mark Phipps, a regional coach for 30 Pizza Huts in Shreveport and East Texas.

Phipps, who was set to go out of town Thursday night, identified and provided surveillance video from the night of the Joses’ death, which was taken from the Pizza Hut at the corner of Greenwood Road and Jewella Avenue.

Though also an SPD officer at the time, he was the U.S. Marshal’s agent who executed the warrant for Watkins’ arrest at the Penick Street location after he was identified as a suspect. Ardoin described the circumstances around Watkins’ arrest, which included a several-hour stand-off.

Ardoin is scheduled to leave the country Friday, so his testimony was taken to accommodate those plans.

Jury selection began on Aug. 22, but the process was halted the next day after Watkins tested positive for COVID. Voire dire resumed Monday. It wasn’t the first time the trial had been delayed due to COVID.

The case, which has been winding through Caddo District Court for more than three years, has been delayed multiple times, starting with the Caddo Parish grand jury upgrading Watkin’s original second-degree murder charges to first-degree murder in a Feb. 14, 2019 indictment. The trial had to be rescheduled in February 2022 under a court order issued in January postponing all jury trials until at least March 1 due to COVID concerns.

Watkins is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, which is punishable by life in prison or the death penalty but Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart reversed course in early 2021, taking the death penalty option off the table in an effort to move the case along.