Fontenot murder trial gets another delay, now set to start Dec. 1

Seth Fontenot’s trial on charges of murder and attempted murder was delayed for a fourth time Monday when a Cameron Parish judge agreed to push the trial from Sept. 22 to Dec. 1.

Retired 38th Judicial District Judge Hadley Ward Fontenot signed off on the delay while sitting in for 15th District Judge Edward Rubin, who was unable to preside at a hearing in the Fontenot case on Monday. That hearing also was delayed and has been rescheduled for Sept. 22.

Fontenot was an 18-year-old freshman accounting major at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette when he allegedly shot and killed Austin Rivault, 15, on Feb. 10, 2013.

Rivault, a freshman at St. Thomas More Catholic High School, was inside a truck with two friends when Fontenot shot at the vehicle, police said. Fontenot told investigators he was trying only to scare the youths and fired three shots at the truck to shoot out the tail lights.

The other boys also were hit and sustained minor injuries. Fontenot said he believed the youths were trying to break into his truck.

Fontenot was charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. After the indictment, prosecutors said they would not pursue the death penalty.

Rivault’s parents, who have attended all the hearings, were not at the canceled hearing Monday.

Fontenot, who is usually accompanied by his mother and stepfather, was in court alone Monday except for attorneys Thomas Guilbeau and Katherine Guilbeau Guillot.

Court officials did not give a reason why Rubin was absent.

“The victims wanted to get it tried. We wanted to get it tried,” said J.M. Prather, a Lafayette Parish assistant district attorney who is lead prosecutor in the case.

Prather took over as lead prosecutor earlier this year after former Assistant District Attorney Mark Garber left the District Attorney’s Office.

In February, Rubin moved the trial’s April start date to September because Fontenot had not received government funds to help pay for an investigator and expert witnesses.

Rubin took over the case in January after Judge Kristian Earles returned to the bench in Acadia Parish, which along with Lafayette and Vermilion parishes, is part of the 15th Judicial District. Earles, in the months after Fontenot was indicted, ordered the 15th District Public Defenders Board to use its government funds to help pay for Fontenot’s expert witnesses and investigators. Rubin said he was bound to Earles’ order.

Rubin also has continued Earles’ gag order, which prohibited attorneys and others intimately involved in the case from talking to media about specifics.