Accused of killing five, Dakota Theriot pleads guilty; receives five life sentences

Staff Report

Dakota Theriot was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to first-degree murder charges Jan. 11 in the 2019 shooting deaths of five people.

The 25-year-old was spared the death penalty in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

In court in Livingston Parish, he pleaded guilty to the killing of Summer Ernest, who was his girlfriend; her brother, Tanner Ernest; and her father, Billy Ernest, outside of a residence in Walker.

Judge Brenda Ricks imposed three life sentences to be served without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

Later in court in Ascension Parish, Theriot pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his parents Keith and Elizabeth Theriot, who were both 50. Judge Jason Verdigets presided over the matter.

Dakota Theriot, center, is escorted to the Ascension Parish Courthouse East in Gonzales in a file photo from Feb. 1, 2019. Theriot was charged with killing five people in Louisiana's Ascension and Livingston parishes. Theriot was returned to Louisiana after waiving extradition from Virginia where he surrendered after fleeing.

Theriot reportedly was living with his girlfriend's family in January 2019 when the shootings happened. According to previous reports, he shot the Ernests in Livingston Parish then drove to neighboring Ascension Parish, where he shot his father and stepmother at their residence along Churchpoint Road in Gonzales.

Theriot then fled to his grandmother's home in Virginia. He was apprehended in Richmond County, Virginia.

According to a statement from 21st Judicial District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, a grand jury indicted Theriot and Louisiana then filed motions seeking the death penalty.

Theriot will serve five life sentences but will not receive the death penalty, according to Perrilloux. His office made the decision in consideration of the victims' families to offer them resolution and prevent further trauma.

"As in any decision made when resolving a case, consideration is given to the victims and their families, the community, and the legal and factual posture of the case in its entirety," Perrilloux stated. "The victims’ families have agreed with the defendant’s plea and sentence. We appreciate their patience and cooperation. Mr. Theriot will spend the remainder of his life in prison. Our office has reviewed numerous and extensive psychological records of the defendant setting out a very documented history of his mental illness. Seeking the death penalty, although factually warranted, would lead to protracted and likely never-ending litigation for the victims’ families to endure. After much review, discussion, and consideration, we felt this was the best outcome."