Prosecutors not seeking death penalty in Fontenot case

A prosecutor told court officials Wednesday he won’t seek the death penalty in the murder case of 18-year-old Seth Fontenot, which means Fontenot could be released on bail Thursday from the jail where he’s been held since the killing a high school student Feb. 10.

Bail had been denied Fontenot because he was charged with capital murder, but Assistant District Attorney Mark Garber’s notice of withdrawing the death penalty opens the door for Fontenot to post bail in the case.

Fontenot has been charged in the killing of 15-year-old Austin Rivault and the wounding of two other teens.

A bond hearing is set for noon Thursday before Judge Kristian Earles, who will preside over the case.

A grand jury indicted the University of Louisiana at Lafayette accounting student on Feb. 21, charging him with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of first-degree murder.

Fontenot’s attorney, Thomas Guilbeau, said the decision to not pursue the death penalty means prosecutors would need 10 of 12 jurors voting to convict instead of the unanimous jury vote required in a capital murder trial.

Guilbeau also said the jury could return with responsive verdicts, where jurors vote to convict the defendant of lesser charges, such as manslaughter or negligent homicide.

Guilbeau said Fontenot was relieved by the district attorney’s decision on the death penalty.

“He’s stunned. He’s kind of speechless. His and our prayers are being answered,” Guilbeau said.

Lafayette police have said in an affidavit 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.

More than 100 supporters of Fontenot, and about 20 supporting the Rivault family, on Wednesday attended what was scheduled to be a hearing on whether Judge Herman Clause should be recused from the case.

Prosecutors had asked for his recusal after the judge disclosed distant relationships with people involved in the case.

Clause was presiding under the judge allotment system set up for capital murder cases, but after the death penalty was removed by prosecutors, the pool of judges expanded.

The recusal hearing then became moot and Judge Earles was assigned the case.

Garber, the prosecutor, said after the hearing that he would not comment on the case for fear pretrial comments could taint the jury pool.

Guilbeau said Wednesday that after firing the gun, which Lafayette police said was a Beretta handgun, Fontenot told his father about the incident.

While Fontenot and his father searched the Bellevue Plantation subdivision off Johnston Street, where Fontenot resided with his family, Fontenot’s sister Kailey called police, according to Guilbeau.

Officials at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center also called police, with the dispatcher reporting that the call came in at 2:15 a.m. about three teens arriving there with shooting injuries.

One teen, Rivault, was dead and the other two were wounded, police said.

Just before noon Feb. 10, a Sunday, police picked Fontenot up at his River Ranch restaurant job, and arrested him at the police station, according to records.