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Accused killer Dakota Theriot arrives to the Ascension Parish Courthouse Annex escorted by Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office Detective LaTonya Prejean, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, in Gonzales, La.

A deputy involved in the arrest of Dakota Theriot, who is accused of killing five people, testified Monday in a Gonzales court that the 21-year-old confessed to the slayings and told law enforcement he did it in "pure, cold blood," according to a report from WBRZ.

The same deputy also said Theriot taunted law enforcement officers when they arrived in Richmond, Virginia, to capture him. When authorities cornered him outside the house, the deputy testified, Theriot pointed a gun at them, trying to get them to shoot him, according to the report.

The testimony came during a hearing Monday on a defense request for funding.

Authorities believe Theriot killed Summer, Tanner and Billy Ernest — a family he had been temporarily living with — in their Livingston Parish trailer on the morning of Jan. 26. He then drove to Ascension Parish and killed his parents, Keith and Elizabeth Theriot, officials said, before driving across the country to Virginia in what the Associated Press reported was an attempt to kiss his grandmother goodbye.

WBRZ also reports Theriot told investigators he was angry because his parents kicked him out of the house, and he thought the Ernest family was "using" him.

Theriot’s lawyers, Christine Lehmann and Elliott Brown, work for the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, a law office that exclusively represents indigent capital defendants. Both attorneys, appointed by the court, said there is no money to pay for Theriot’s defense.

In an earlier court appearance, Lehmann told the judge her defense team had been working pro bono on Theriot’s case and that funding is critical to hire investigators and experts they'll need to prepare for a capital murder trial.

The firm’s director, Richard Bourke, said in an interview Monday evening with The Advocate that because Theriot is an indigent client, if they cannot identify a source of funding, the judge may halt the prosecution until funds are secured.

“We all agree that if we’re going to have death penalty trials in Louisiana, they have to be fair, and the state has to provide for the defense for poor people who can’t afford their own lawyers,” Bourke said. “Mr. Theriot’s case is just one of many around the state that are caught in this funding shortfall.”

According to agenda materials for a June meeting of the Louisiana Public Defender Board, Theriot’s is one of 23 capital cases on a wait list for funding. Bourke said that in 2017, the capital defense budget was cut in order to fund non-capital cases.

“It affects high-profile cases and low-profile cases,” Bourke said. “Whether the fact that it’s occurring in a high-profile case will make any difference, I don’t know.”

During the most recent session, the legislature provided more money for public defense, Bourke said, and some of that might be spent on capital defense to help alleviate the problem.

“I certainly appreciate that a lot of people are trying to fix this,” Bourke said. “But it’s not fixed.”

Bourke said he testified Monday for nearly three hours on funding issues in his office, and Jean Faria, the capital case coordinator for the Louisiana Public Defender Board, also testified.

The Louisiana Public Defender Board is scheduled to meet in August, Bourke said, which is when they will make a decision about what they will do with the additional money the legislature assigned them this year.

Tyler Cavalier, public information officer for the Ascension Parish District Attorney's Office, told The Advocate that two motions filed by Theriot's defense team for reduction of bond and regarding the funding issues were taken under advisement by the judge to be ruled on at a later date.


Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com