Hours after Seth Fontenot shot three teens riding in a pickup, he told police detectives he was angry when the boys didn’t follow his orders to stop as they drove by his Green Meadow Road home.
“He’s getting angry because the truck and the occupants in the truck are not complying with his commands,” police Detective Larry Theriot testified Thursday at Fontenot’s murder trial.
So Fontenot, who believed the boys had earlier tried to break into his vehicle, told the investigators he raised his 9 mm Beretta and fired off three rounds in a controlled, disciplined manner, Theriot said.
Fontenot said he shot at the truck’s tailgate to scare the boys, not hurt them.
Recounting the interview during the trial, Theriot said Fontenot displayed a “range of emotions,” from being sorry to feeling justified.
“I still feel I personally did nothing wrong,” Theriot recalled Fontenot saying well into the interview with detectives, after Fontenot learned that the hollow point bullets he fired just hours earlier had killed Austin Rivault and injured the two 15-year-olds with him.
Theriot was one of three witnesses to testify Thursday, the third day of Fontenot’s trial on first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Cole Kelley and William Bellamy, who also testified, were 15 and in the truck with Rivault that early Feb. 10, 2013, morning. Kelley and Bellamy, now 17, were shot but survived. Both still carry the bullets in their bodies: Kelley’s is lodged in his right leg, Bellamy’s in his right jaw.
Fontenot faces life in prison if he’s convicted of the murder charge. He also faces decades in prison if he’s found guilty of attempted murder. The 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office decided early on not to seek the death penalty.
Rivault’s killing occurred on the Sunday before Mardi Gras 2013, hours after a Saturday street parade in Lafayette. Rivault sneaked out of his house to attend a party at friend Bailey Raborn’s home, where the teenage boys drank beer after Raborn’s parents went to bed. At about 1:30 a.m., Rivault told his friends he needed to leave and that he was going to walk home. Kelley, who said he didn’t drink any beers that night, offered to give him a ride in a borrowed Chevrolet Silverado, even though Kelley was too young to possess a driver’s license. Bellamy, who did admit to drinking beer, went along and sat in the passenger’s seat.
Only Rivault was familiar with the area around Green Meadow Road, the street he lived on with his family in a home just doors from Fontenot, Kelley and Bellamy testified Thursday.
Rivault, who was seated in the Silverado’s rear seat, was leaning over the front console giving Kelley directions to his home. The truck’s windows were up and music was playing, Kelley said, when he saw a man — “naked, with shorts” and red sneakers.
Kelley said Thursday he didn’t realize someone was firing a gun at them until he felt a burning in his right ankle where a bullet had struck.
Bellamy testified, “That’s when Cole said, ‘I’ve been shot. I’ve been shot.’ ”
“I turned around and Austin’s laying on the seat. … He wasn’t responsive. I kind of nudged him, and he wouldn’t respond,” Bellamy said. “The adrenaline was flowing, and I didn’t know I’d been shot.”
Bellamy said he later felt the back of his neck, and his “hand fell through the wound.”
Theriot was the detective on duty that night, arriving at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center not sure of what had happened. No one had dialed 911 that night to report a shooting, and at the hospital were two 15-year-olds being treated for gunshot wounds. Another boy lay dead from a bullet to the back of his head, and the Silverado was full of blood.
Piecing together hospital bed statements from Kelley and Bellamy, who had no idea where they were when they were shot, and other information led police to Fontenot, where he was picked up hours after the sun came up at his job at Another Broken Egg restaurant in River Ranch. In his truck, a Chevrolet Avalanche, was the 9 mm and ammunition, Theriot said.
Asked by Assistant District Attorney J.N. Prather how Fontenot described shooting at the boys, Theriot said, “He actually advised they were controlled shots. … They were not random shots; he had time to pull the trigger.” He also said Fontenot told him he started firing his weapon at the Silverado and the boys when they were 6 to 8 feet away from him and passing down Green Meadow Road.
Thomas Guilbeau, Fontenot’s attorney, attempted to poke holes in witness statements throughout Thursday: Was the truck really just 6 feet from Fontenot when he shot; how accurate was Kelley’s testimony of driving only 10 mph down Green Meadow — slow enough for Fontenot to fire off accurate shots — when he originally told police two years ago that he was driving 35 mph; how easily could Fontenot see inside the truck, which had heavily tinted windows?
On Wednesday, Guilbeau told the jury of 10 women and two men — another man and woman are alternates — that he would prove Rivault’s death was an accident.
Guilbeau also said Fontenot would testify.
Prather said in opening statements to the jury that Fontenot, in a cold and calculating manner, meant to kill the boys. The prosecutor also scoffed at Fontenot’s assertion that he meant only to scare the boys by firing at the truck’s tailgate. Prather noted the first shot that was fired hit Kelley from the side of the truck, not the rear, and two bullet holes in the victims’ rear window show Fontenot didn’t shoot at the tail lights. Prather called them “head shots.”
“Three shots, three hits,” he said.
Prather also is using Fontenot’s text messages as evidence in the prosecution. In one text written to a friend in December 2012, less than two months before Rivault was killed, Fontenot expressed anger that his truck had been broken into and egged.
The texts claimed he would kill a person he caught breaking into his truck or his property and “I’d definitely shoot someone,” Theriot testified about what Fontenot wrote in the texts.
And a photo that appeared on a social media website shows Fontenot sitting with his 9 mm in one hand and his sister’s baby daughter in his arms while also expressing “some sort of gang symbol,” Theriot said.
Judge Ed Rubin will resume the trial at 9:15 a.m. Friday.