Theriot killings reveal positive function of news media
This week Ascension and Livingston Parishes have been turned upside down due to a five-person killing spree by 21-year-old Dakota Theriot.
While a recent article in The Advocate hints that Theriot has a history of violent outbursts and "substance-induced mood swings," I'm not qualified to say whether or not this will result in an insanity plea. Although drug-addiction is a disease, and drugs do alter one's mood.
However, I may be qualified to write about a positive function of news media--raising awareness.
The original press release sent out by our own Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office spread like wildfire near midday on January 26. This is a good thing.
It wasn't long after the first press release was distributed to local media outlets that Theriot's picture was on national television. A killer, who murdered his parents, a friend, the friend's father, and her younger brother, was on the loose.
He'd stolen a truck from the Ernest's. The license plate number was shared nationally by late afternoon. One article stated that in the few days Theriot knew his friend's father, 43-year-old Billy Ernest, they'd developed a sincere relationship. Coincidentally, the word "earnest" is used to describe one who has a sincere conviction.
Moreover, social media also played a positive role in Theriot's apprehension, since hundreds if not thousands of Facebook profiles and Twitter pages shared his face and the local press release again and again.
All this, I suggest, obviously aided in the search for Theriot. He was caught within 24 hours. That should be credited to the media and law enforcement for working hand-in-hand. Awareness was properly raised. The national headline made finding Theriot even more poignant outside of Louisiana. Bravo!
However, the people of Gonzales may or may not be satisfied with the facts of the story that is continually unfolding. Additionally, this story has subsequently become high profile--even shared on Good Morning America (from what I'm told)--which is unusual for our community.
But the reason we don't know Dakota Theriot in Gonzales is because he didn't live here long. Documents such as police reports of arrest in St. Charles Parish date back as near as 2017. He attended high school in Richmond County, Virginia. His grandmother lived in a town called Warsaw, Virginia, which is where police apprehended him.
Theriot's deceased parents--the victims, both 50 years old--Keith and Elizabeth Theriot, lived with Kim Mincks and Jacob Chastant on Churchpoint Road. We know Keith was a military veteran who did not work. Chastant was not home, and Mincks stayed asleep at the other end of the home during the murders, which were said to be shots to the head. (Associated Press)
The crime is so heinous that after reading a couple hundred Facebook comments, eventually I teared up. In the same vein, some people are sick of seeing Theriot's face on TV and the internet already. I don't blame them. No one deserves so much publicity for murder.
After all, Gonzales is a peaceful place. Ascension Parish averages a single homicide about every three months, and we like it that way.
Lastly, the Weekly Citizen would like to extend our hearts to the victims of senseless violence last weekend. I also extend a prayer to Summer, Tanner, and Billy Ernest of Livingston Parish, and Keith and Liz Theriot. And another prayer for their friends and families. And another for justice and healing in our local communities.
The service for the Ernest's will be Saturday, February 9 at Abundant Life Church in Denham Springs, Louisiana. Visitation is from 10-noon. Due to the volume of people expected to attend, it may begin earlier. Services start at noon.
Donations for funeral arrangements can be made here: https://www.gofundme.com/summer-and-tanner-ernest-funeral-expenses and https://www.gofundme.com/6sfphuw.