Louisiana murder suspect caught at grandma’s Virginia home
GONZALES, La. — A 21-year-old man suspected of killing his parents and three other people — including a girl he was dating — was arrested Sunday when he showed up at his grandmother’s house in Virginia, a sheriff there said.
On Saturday, Dakota Theriot shot and killed three people — the woman believed to be his girlfriend, her brother and father — in Louisiana’s Livingston Parish before taking her father’s truck, driving to neighboring Ascension Parish, and shooting his parents, authorities said.
At a trailer where the parents lived, drops of blood trailed out to the front steps from the bedroom where Keith and Elizabeth Theriot were shot. In the bedroom, blood-soaked pillows were strewn on the bed, and patches of what appeared to be dried blood were on the floor. Dozens of stuffed animals decorated the room.
Kim Mincks and Jacob Chastant also lived in the trailer and were friends with the Theriots. Mincks was in the house when the shooting happened but didn’t hear anything. Law enforcement officers came into her room and woke her Saturday morning.
“They said something terrible happened here. Get up, get dressed and walk outside,” she said.
‘A drug problem’: They said Dakota Theriot had struggled with drugs over the years, had violent outbursts, and had recently been kicked out of the trailer.
“We know he had a drug problem. He got kicked out last Monday because of the drug problem. His dad kicked him out of here. He did have a violent streak,” Mincks said.
Theriot’s grandmother, who lives in Warsaw, Virginia, had checked into a hotel Saturday night because she feared he might show up at her house, Richmond County Sheriff Stephan B. Smith said in a phone interview. The woman asked authorities to check her home Sunday morning to make sure it was safe before she returned.
While deputies were there, Smith said, Theriot drove up. He had a gun on him but he dropped it and was taken into custody without incident, Smith said.
Charges: Theriot will be brought back to Ascension Parish to be booked on two counts of first-degree murder, home invasion, and illegal use of weapons, according to a statement by Ascension Parish Sheriff Bobby Webre and Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard.
Smith said he believes the truck Theriot was driving when he arrived at his grandmother’s house was the one taken in Louisiana.
Authorities have identified the victims in Livingston Parish as Billy Ernest, 43; Tanner Ernest, 17; and Summer Ernest, 20. Ard said Summer Ernest and Dakota Theriot were in a relationship and that Theriot had been living with her family for a few weeks.
Authorities said earlier that Keith Theriot survived the shooting long enough to let them know who shot him. Before the father died, Webre said, authorities were able to get a “dying declaration from him, and only enough information to let us know that it was his son that committed this act.”
Mincks and Chastant only returned to the trailer Sunday morning, worried that Dakota Theriot might come back.
Mincks said she’d known Keith and Elizabeth Theriot for about two years and described them as wonderful people. Keith Theriot was a disabled veteran who played a wicked guitar, and Elizabeth Theriot worked at a nearby Dollar General Store, they said. Keith Theriot had four children, all boys, Mincks said.
“Give you the shirt off their back. They loved everybody. Never met a stranger. Loved each other. Just a happy couple,” Mincks said.
But the relationship between Dakota Theriot and his parents, especially his father, was troubled. She and Chastant described an incident in which Chastant had to pull Dakota Theriot off his parents during a physical altercation.
Minks said Dakota Theriot and his mother seemed much closer. They’d laugh and joke and tell each other “I love you.” But even that relationship had problems. Mincks and Chastant said at one point Dakota Theriot pulled a gun on his mother, who called Chastant for help.
“I think just the drugs took over,” Mincks said.
Chastant and Mincks said Dakota Theriot had just met Summer Ernest about three weeks ago at Chastant’s sister’s funeral. Summer Ernest was there as a friend to Jacob Chastant’s 20-year-old daughter, Sierra.
Sierra said she warned her friend to stay away from Dakota, calling him “trouble.” But she never expected anything like what unfolded Saturday morning.
Summer Ernest had an outgoing personality and intended to return soon to college, Sierra said.
“She was bubbly, always friendly. She wasn’t mean or anything. She’s just a great person,” she said.
“If you asked me what his motive was…. I don’t know what it would be,” she said. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Associated Press writers Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.