Suspect accused in February slaying of STM teen
LAFAYETTE — Attorneys for Seth Fontenot have asked a judge to bar some photos at Fontenot’s first-degree murder trial, which remains scheduled for next month, arguing that 22 graphic autopsy photos of 15-year-old Austin Rivault’s body would be prejudicial to a jury and painful to Rivault’s family.
Fontenot’s attorneys also are requesting judicial permission to visit the south Lafayette scene of the shooting to gather measurements and take pictures for an investigation by Fontenot’s defense team. The request comes with less than two weeks before the trial’s scheduled Nov. 12 start.
One of Fontenot’s attorneys, Thomas Guilbeau, said in court papers that Rivault’s autopsy photos are too gruesome and asked Judge Kristian Earles to keep prosecutors from using the photos as evidence.
The evidentiary aspects of the photos, such as bullet angles and entry points “can be demonstrated by the coroner … without the necessity of showing to the jury this highly prejudicial photograph,” Guilbeau said of one photo.
Guilbeau gives a description of each of the 22 photos in papers he filed last week. He asked Earles to seal the photographs, and to hold a closed-door hearing before the trial on his motion to keep the pictures from jurors’ eyes.
Fontenot, 19, was charged with first-degree murder of Rivault, who was a freshman at St. Thomas More Catholic High School when he was killed Feb. 10. Fontenot also is facing two charges of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting and wounding of two other teens, William Bellemy and Cole Kelley.
Bellemy and Cole, now high school sophomores, and their parents have been subpoenaed as possible witnesses, according to court records.
Rivault, Bellemy and Kelley were in a truck outside the home Fontenot shared with his family on Green Meadow Road in South Lafayette when Fontenot is accused of shooting at the truck at about 2 a.m. Feb. 10.
The three bullets each hit a victim, wounding Bellemy and Cole and killing Rivault when a 9 mm bullet struck him in the back of his head. Rivault was pronounced dead at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center where the boys drove after the shooting.
Fontenot told detectives he didn’t mean to hurt or kill anyone.
“Mr. Fontenot stated that his intentions were to only scare the victims, not to inflict bodily harm and/or death,” according to a warrant for Fontenot, who was an 18-year-old freshman accounting major at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette when the shooting occurred.
A grand jury indicted Fontenot on Feb. 21, and prosecutors later said they would not seek the death penalty. Fontenot faces an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if he’s convicted of killing Rivault in the first degree.
Guilbeau also asked Judge Earles to allow Fontenot, his attorneys and an investigator to visit the scene of the shooting on Green Meadow Drive, according to court documents filed Friday. Fontenot and his family no longer live in that house.
“A view of the alleged scene of the crime (and) its surrounding area is imperative to the defense of this case, and it is necessary for the defense attorney to take pictures, take measurements and otherwise properly investigate the scene of the alleged crime with the defendant’s assistance,” Guilbeau wrote in the request.
If the judge approves Guilbeau’s request to visit the scene, it is unclear whether it will cause a delay in the start of the trial.
Guilbeau did not return a message Monday. In April, Earles imposed a gag order on the trial’s participants, including Guilbeau.
Fontenot remains free on $700,000 bail.