Two Convicted of Mutiny, Murder of Captain in Shrimp Boat Takeover
Two deckhands were convicted Wednesday in a rare federal mutiny trial of murdering the skipper of a shrimp boat and trying to kill the first mate during a high-seas takeover.
“Justice was done,” first mate Willie Charpentier said after the U.S. District Court jury found Bill Gossett and William Rector guilty of five charges that could send them to prison for life.
The jurors rejected differing stories from the defendants, who implicated each other in the July 29 attack on the 65-foot Leslie Rae in which Capt. Philip Roush died.
Rector, 21, insisted that Gossett crushed Roush’s skull with three blows of a long-handled ball peen hammer as the captain and first mate mended shrimp nets.
Gossett, 24, a former Navy air traffic controller, testified that Rector fired three rifle shots into the captain as he rose during the hammer attack.
Charpentier, 21, was hit twice on the head with a pry bar but managed to dive into the Atlantic Ocean, 26 miles from the Florida coast. He swam and fought off sharks for 12 hours before he was rescued.
The fishermen, hired just before the cruise, were convicted of first-degree murder, felony murder, mutiny, conspiracy and assault with intent to murder Charpentier.
Conviction on the murder charges means automatic life sentences, the prosecutor said. The mutiny charge, which prosecutors said had not come to trial in several decades, carries a 10-year term.
Sentencing was set for Jan. 19.