Louisiana detectives traveled to Virginia on Monday to interview the man accused of killing five people in two parishes over the weekend, in a shooting rampage that led to a 24-hour manhunt and stunned the nation.
Detectives with the sheriff's offices in Livingston and Ascension parishes on Monday questioned Theriot at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, "picking up evidence" and doing the required paperwork to bring Theriot back to Louisiana, Ascension Parish Sheriff Bobby Webre said.
Theriot is scheduled for an extradition hearing at 9 a.m. Friday in Richmond County, Va., the county's Sheriff's Office said Monday.
Theriot was arrested early Sunday as he arrived at his grandmother's home near Warsaw — population 1,500 — a part of the country where he had spent his middle-school and part of his high school years, friends of the 21-year-old have said.
Theriot had been on the run for nearly a day, after first shooting to death his girlfriend, Summer Ernest, her brother, Tanner Ernest, and her father, Billy Ernest, on Saturday morning, investigators said.
Theriot had recently been living with the Ernest family after his parents, Elizabeth and Keith Theriot, who lived in Gonzales, had asked him to leave their home over drug-related issues, a family friend has said.
After killing his girlfriend and her two family members early Saturday in Livingston Parish, Theriot drove to the Gonzales home of his parents and shot them as well, according to sheriff's offices in both parishes. His father, Keith, survived long enough to tell law enforcement officers that it was his son who shot him, authorities said.
Webre said that he and Livingston Parish Sheriff Jeff Ard will discuss and decide where Theriot will be jailed on his return. Webre said that autopsies on the five victims of the shooting will be handled by the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office.
Community pitches in
One of the victims, Tanner Ernest, was a junior at Denham Springs High School. His sister, Summer, was a recent graduate.
Monday, the school brought in extra counselors to help students deal with the loss of their classmate, according to Delia Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Livingston Parish School District. About a half-dozen counselors would be available in the office and would follow his schedule throughout the day, Taylor said Monday morning.
The school also allowed students to wear red Monday in honor of Ernest, something his family has requested.
On Tuesday, the school is scheduled to have a "free dress day," with students donating $3 in support of the Ernest family if they wish to vary from the school uniform.
The Ascension Parish government also is hosting a fundraiser to support the family of Billy Ernest, who was a longtime employee in the public works department, Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa said.
“Billy Ernest was a valued long-time employee of our Department of Public Works. He was well liked and respected, and we send our sincere condolences to his family and his many friends," Matassa said.
The jambalaya fundraiser is scheduled for Jan. 31 at 11:30 a.m. at the DPW auditorium on Churchpoint Road in Gonzales.
Back at the crime scene
Back at the scene of the initial shooting outside Walker, the yellow crime scene tape was gone and Timmie Blake, the landlord, was working beneath one of the trailers.
The Ernest family had lived in the trailer north of Walker for nearly seven years and had been ideal tenants, Blake said.
“Such fine people,” Blake said repeatedly, adding that he had never seen Billy Ernest angry and assumed the family went to bed before 9 p.m.
Blake said Billy Ernest came to him about two weeks ago and said Dakota Theriot and Summer Ernest would be living with him just a few days. Theriot had been kicked out of his parents’ house and needed a place to stay, Blake recalled him saying. Blake said Theriot appeared to have no vehicle.
Blake said Billy Ernest took his wife, Kacee, to work at the Little Caesars in Walker on Saturday morning around 6 a.m. The shooting took place around 8 a.m., authorities said.
Shortly after the shooting, a 7-year-old girl living in the house ran to a neighbor’s trailer, her one-year-old brother in her arms.
Blake said the young girl had been hiding under the covers during and after the shooting. She grabbed the young child from a stroller parked near her deceased father.
Blake said that, aside from a vehicle, it appeared nothing was stolen from the trailer — money was even left out on the table.
"You take somebody in off the street because they are hungry ... and they just up and kill you," Blake said.
When the young girl ran, she knocked on the door of her neighbors, who live in a nearby trailer, the Bordelons.
Donald Bordelon, who was taking Monday off to comfort his wife, who was still disturbed by the incident, said the girl came knocking at the door saying someone killed her dad, brother and sister.
Bordelon said he and his wife were at first caught off-guard, then they wrapped her in a blanket and put her in a chair.
The girl said her dad was dead in a chair, her sister was on the floor and her brother was in the bathroom.
Suddenly, it clicked: The three pops he heard earlier in the morning must have been the gunshots Dakota Theriot fired within the house.
"We didn't realize what it was," Bordelon said.