Laurent murder trial delayed

Leo Lucas Laurent will have his day in court, it just won’t be next Monday.
Three days before Laurent’s murder trial was set to begin in Hattiesburg, the district attorney’s office requested the case be continued Friday because a “high-profile” witness in the case is expecting to give birth to a child next week and cannot attend.
The motion for a continuance was made Friday when Circuit Judge Roger Clark heard final pre-trial motions on the case.
Clark granted the continuance and re-set the trial for June 28.
Clark also heard three motions on Friday from Laurent’s attorney Brian Alexander.
Two of the motions asked the judge to suppress statements which Laurent gave to law enforcement officers on January 6 and January 7, 2008 when he was in jail for an unrelated embezzlement charge and a suspect in his wife Brandi Hawkins Laurent’s murder.
The two statements later led to Laurent being charged in her murder
Hancock County Sheriff Steve Garber testified on Friday that he was called by Leo Laurent’s mother on January 6, 2008 and told that Leo wanted to speak with him about Brandi’s death.
That evening, Garber said, he and Chief Investigator Kenny Hurt traveled to the Pearl River County Jail and interviewed Laurent and obtained a taped statement.
The next day, Laurent was transported to the crime scene and afterwards he gave another confession to investigators Andre’ Fizer and John Bunce, Garber said.
Hurt testified that he had read Laurent his Miranda Rights and had obtained a signed waiver of the rights from Laurent.
Laurent, who testified Friday for two hours, said he was read his rights and signed the waiver, but only after Garber promised several things including: To make him a trustee; to let him see his children, and that he would be released within six months.
“They said they understood it was an accident and that if I said what they wanted me to say, it would be better,” Laurent said. “I would do anything for my kids.”
Laurent said that after he began to give the taped statement, he asked for a lawyer and was denied.
Garber and Hurt both denied that Laurent was promised anything or that he asked to speak with a lawyer.
Laurent also claimed that Hurt was very “aggressive” and “hostile” when interviewing him when the tape was not rolling.
The taped statement was played in court and it did not indicate anyone raising his voice, or making threats or promises.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Fisher questioned Laurent on whether the statements were true.
Laurent said he was “coached” by Hurt and Garber to say his wife was under the influence of drugs, that her death was an accidental overdose, and that he loaded her body in a trash can and buried her in a shallow grave.
Laurent said some parts of the statement were true and other parts were fiction.
A dramatic point in Fisher’s cross-examination came when Fisher asked Laurent about how he moved Brandi’s body.
Fisher asked Laurent whether he put his wife’s body in a trash can after she died, like his statement indicated.
“That is not true,” Laurent said. “They coached me to say that.”
Fisher then asked Laurent if he put his three-year-old daughter in the child seat of the van when he went to dispose of Brandi’s body.
“That’s the truth,” Laurent said.
“Well, where were you going?” Fisher asked.
After about a 30-second pause, Laurent meekly said “I don’t know.”
Fisher then asked Laurent about a letter he wrote to his mother-in-law earlier this year, which repeated some of the same information which he had told Hurt and Garber.
“I was trying to reestablish the relationship we had,” Laurent said. “She was like a mother to me. It was between her and I.”
Alexander later called to testify an inmate who claimed to have seen the entire interview between Laurent, Garber, and Hurt.
The inmate, John Reshke, recited the same story which Laurent had in almost the same exact verbage which Laurent had earlier used in his testimony.
Reshke said he stood outside the interview door–unattended–for about 30 minutes and heard Hurt threaten Laurent and Garber make promises to him.
Clark did not rule on the suppression motions, but promised to make his decision before trial.
Alexander also filed a motion to have Laurent’s $1 million bond reduced.
Alexander said if Laurent were able to make bond, he could better communicate with his attorneys.
Laurent said if he were able to get out of jail, he would “get a job, work and help support my family.”
Clark said he will rule on the bond reduction at a hearing on April 26.

BY Dwayne Bremer

The Sea Coast Echo

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