Brent Riggins

Brent Riggins

A killer apologized and received a lengthy sentence in a New Orleans courtroom last week, but his victim’s family was still left feeling that justice had not been served.

Relatives said they were disappointed that Brent Riggins, 23, will be able to leave prison after serving a 40-year sentence for shooting Jared Hester outside an Algiers apartment complex in 2013.

Riggins received the sentence Wednesday from Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Darryl Derbigny under a plea deal his attorneys made with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office.

“He should not see the street again,” said one of Hester’s seven brothers. “He shouldn't have to die, but he shouldn't have the opportunity to slay someone else's child.”

The brother, like other family members, requested anonymity because investigators believe one of Hester’s killers is still at large.

Authorities said Hester, 18, was shot 14 times outside an apartment complex in the 1500 block of Southlawn Boulevard on Oct. 4, 2013. They believe Riggins and another person who has never been arrested did the shooting.

A third man, Aaron Thibodeaux, pleaded guilty to acting as an accessory after the fact to the killing in January. He and Riggins were arrested in 2013.

Riggins pleaded guilty to manslaughter Tuesday instead of going to trial on a second-degree murder charge, which carries an automatic life sentence upon conviction.

Hester's brother said Hester was poised to leave New Orleans for an offshore oil job at the time of the shooting.

His mother said he was the youngest of eight brothers. He also had eight sisters.

Hester’s brother said the killing tore apart his large family. The plea deal resolving the case was hashed out without the family’s consent, he said.

Authorities have not given any hint about a motive in the case. Hester’s family members pleaded with Riggins to solve that and other mysteries.

“Forget the apology. We don't want the apology. We want to know what happened,” said one of Hester’s sisters.

But Riggins did not speak. Instead, defense attorney Martin Regan offered an apology on his behalf and an explanation for his silence.

“The streets are bad, and obviously there was at least one other guy,” Regan said. “For him to give you the answer for the rest of the story ... he will be putting his family in serious jeopardy.”

Separately, Derbigny sentenced Thibodeaux to a maximum five-year sentence Wednesday. He has already served more than that since his arrest.

In a statement, prosecutors said they achieved the best result possible.

"While we understand this grieving family's desire to see a longer sentence for their loved one's killer, our decisions ultimately hinge on how justice and public safety are best served,” District Attorney's Office spokesman Ken Daley said in a statement.

“In this case," he said, "it was determined that a conviction for manslaughter with the maximum sentence of 40 years satisfied those needs. Because this plea agreement precludes the risk of a jury trial, appeals or post-conviction relief, we are assured another New Orleans killer has been taken off the streets for a period of four decades.”


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432