AMITE — As the tape rolled in court, the voice of Richard Lagarrigue recounted closing his eyes and pulling the trigger. When he opened them, he saw his wife sputtering, her face turning blue.
During a pretrial hearing Tuesday afternoon in the 21st Judicial District Court in Tangipahoa Parish, prosecutors played a recorded interview between Lagarrigue, then 27, and detectives in which he confesses to shooting his wife in July 2013. He has been charged with one count of second-degree murder and has entered pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.
In the tapes, he also discusses his suspicion that a parish deputy texted nude photos to his wife, his own mental health issues and the events surrounding Heather Lagarrigue’s death.
During Tuesday’s hearing on a motion to suppress evidence, attorneys on both sides fought over whether the interview should be allowed in trial. Defense attorney John Hall Thomas argued Richard Lagarrigue was too mentally ill, and possibly under the influence of drugs, to have been allowed to waive his right to counsel before speaking with investigators.
Judge Bruce Bennett disagreed and is allowing the interview to be presented to a jury.
The judge also is allowing prosecutors to enter evidence about a 2007 shooting in St. Bernard Parish. Richard Lagarrigue was never convicted in that incident, but his late wife’s sister testified during Tuesday’s hearing that he confessed to her that he tried to shoot another man who had been involved with Heather Lagarrigue, showing her the shell casings as proof.
In the recording of his interview with the detectives after the 2013 shooting of his wife, Richard Lagarrigue said he and Heather Lagarrigue, 28, with whom he has two living children, got into a fight before the shooting. The couple had another child who died in infancy, Thomas said.
The couple had been separated for about two months, Richard Lagarrigue told investigators, during which time “she’d been sleeping with random men,” including having unprotected sex.
He said he found a number listed on her phone as “Baby” that had sent her nude photos. He told detectives he thought Baby was one of the parish’s sheriff’s deputies, though he could not recall the name.
“She had been talking to a Tangipahoa cop,” he says in the recording.
After the hearing, Thomas said the couple had a home in Loranger that had been foreclosed on, and both had been living with family members elsewhere. The day Heather Lagarrigue was shot, she and her husband went to Walmart together to buy school supplies for their children and had lunch before going back to the foreclosed home on Prevost Lane to pack up their belongings and to sell a van that was parked at the house.
Thomas said Richard Lagarrigue brought a .45-caliber handgun to protect his wife from the buyer, whom he describes in the tapes as “perverted.”
While the Lagarrigues were at the house, Richard Lagarrigue said, they got into a fight about her other sexual partners, and he claims his wife called him a bad father.
“I was just so furious,” he says on the tapes.
He told detectives he went to a car, got the gun, and shot his wife when he went back inside, moving the body so their children — who were playing outside — wouldn’t see. He dropped them off with his mother and was later arrested in St. Martin Parish.
He was interviewed by two Tangipahoa detectives at a State Police station soon after.
Thomas asked Detective Heath Martin if he knew whether Lagarrigue drank any liquor before the interview or if deputies found any empty pill bottles in his car. The detective said Lagarrigue told them he ingested only some heart medication and was not incapacitated.
“He was answering questions fluently,” Martin said. “He was completely coherent.”
Another Tangipahoa Parish detective, Dale Ackman, said Lagarrigue asked to give a supplemental statement several days later and told much the same story to him.
Thomas said after the hearing that his client was diagnosed with a schizo-affective disorder at Greenbrier Behavioral Hospital in Covington before the shooting and has been “on a lot of medication” since he has been in jail. He hallucinates the sound of babies crying and has tried to commit suicide by slitting his wrist on a screw, the attorney said.
Thomas argued in court that Lagarrigue was not mentally competent to waive his right to have an attorney present when he gave his first statement, though the motion was denied.
“He didn’t sound drunk to me or coerced in any way,” Bennett said.
Bennett will also allow prosecutors to introduce evidence about the 2007 shooting incident when the 2013 fatal shooting case goes to trial.
Jason Stacy testified at Tuesday’s hearing that he had been working as a bouncer at Brad’s Bar in St. Bernard Parish in 2007 when Richard Lagarrigue’s sister introduced him to Heather Lagarrigue, saying she was single.
The two had a relationship for about two months before Stacy ended things, he said.
After the break-up, Richard Lagarrigue went to the bar where Stacy worked and confronted him, asking if he knew he and Heather Lagarrigue, who was not yet his wife, had a child together and were expecting another. Stacy said he and Richard Lagarrigue remained calm, and Lagarrigue did not threaten him.
A few weeks later, in December of 2007, Stacy was standing outside the bar when he heard a bullet whiz by his head and shatter the glass window behind him. He never got a look at the gunman.
Faren Rizan, Heather Lagarrigue’s sister, testified at Tuesday’s hearing that shortly before the 2007 shooting she was with Richard Lagarrigue at a sporting goods store, where he bought a rifle.
After the shooting, he showed her shell casings and said he tried to shoot Stacy, she testified.
Lagarrigue told her he missed only because the sight on his gun was off, and that he threw the weapon in a body of water after the attack.
He was never convicted, and Thomas argued against allowing evidence from the 2007 shooting into the current case.
Assistant District Attorney Blair Alford disagreed, saying both cases are similar in that they involved Heather Lagarrigue, a weapon bought shortly before the shooting and a confession soon after.
“This is highly probative and highly relevant,” Alford said. “The motive in each of these cases is his jealousy in the relationship. … Revenge, jealousy — that’s his motive.”