Lafayette judge sets Fontenot bail at $700,000

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Lafayette Parish Sheriff's deputies Paula Fuselier, left, and Daniel Benoit lead Seth Fontenot into the Lafayette Parish Courthousein March for a bond hearing.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Lafayette Parish Sheriff's deputies Paula Fuselier, left, and Daniel Benoit lead Seth Fontenot into the Lafayette Parish Courthousein March for a bond hearing.

A judge on Thursday set bail totaling $700,000 for Seth Fontenot, a college student accused of murder and attempted murder in a Feb. 10 incident that left one teen dead and two others injured.

Judge Kristian Earles set bail of $500,000 for the first-degree murder charge and $100,000 for each of two attempted first-degree murder charges facing Fontenot, 18, who was indicted by a grand jury on Feb. 21.

Fontenot has been in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center since Feb. 10, when he allegedly shot at a pickup truck and killed Austin Rivault, a 15-year-old St. Thomas More Catholic High School freshman. As of early Thursday evening, Fontenot had not made bail and remained in jail, according to an inmate tracking system.

Earles said his conditions allowing Fontenot to post bond included the forfeiture of Fontenot’s passport and that he not be in possession of any firearms.

Fontenot also must move from the subdivision where he lived with his family before Rivault was killed, Earles ruled, because the Rivault family lives nearby.

The judge’s order also prohibits Fontenot or anyone connected with Fontenot from making contact with any member of the Rivault family or the families of the two wounded teens.

“I’m asking please protect my family and the (other) victims’ families,” Kevin Rivault, the father of Austin, said at a bond hearing Thursday that packed a small courtroom that forced many Fontenot supporters to wait in the hall.

“I fear for the other two victims still alive,” said Rivault, the only witness who testified for prosecutors seeking a high bail amount for Fontenot.

In an affidavit used in Fontenot’s arrest, a Lafayette police detective wrote that Fontenot confessed to firing three shots at a fleeing vehicle “he believed to contain suspects” whom he had seen on his property, where his truck had been broken into multiple times.

The incident took place at 1:45 a.m. on Feb. 10.

“Mr. Fontenot stated that his intentions were to only scare the victims, not to inflict bodily harm and/or death,” Detective Larry Theriot wrote in the affidavit.

Thursday’s bail hearing featured five witnesses for Fontenot, including his stepfather, mother and sister, who testified that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette freshman was not a flight risk or a danger to the victims or their families.

Fontenot’s stepfather, Derrick Talbot, also testified that he heard three shots outside his Green Meadow Road home on the morning of Feb. 10.

“He (Seth) said he shot at the tailgate,” Talbot said.

Fontenot’s mother, Brooke Talbot, said her son told her “he was pretty sure he hit the tail light.”

The Talbots said they and Fontenot got into a vehicle and searched Bellevue Plantation subdivision and on Johnston Street for the truck, while Fontenot’s sister Kailey Fontenot called police.

Testimony on Thursday by Fontenot’s family echoed what he told police after detectives picked him up at work before noon the day of the shooting.

Prosecutor Mark Garber on Wednesday filed papers notifying the court that the Lafayette Parish District Attorney’s Office would not seek the death penalty.

Though the possibility of death row is off the table, Fontenot still faces life in prison.

Thomas Guilbeau, attorney for Fontenot, on Thursday asked Earles to grant bail totalling $100,000.

Derrick Talbot, the defendant’s stepfather, testified that a bail total in excess of $100,000 would be unaffordable. Talbot said he’s an offshore superintendent who makes $150,000 to $175,000 a year. Fontenot’s mother said she does not work outside the home.