Judge lowers bond for Laurent

Circuit Court Judge Roger Clark has reduced the $1 million bond on accused murderer Leo Lucas Laurent.

Laurent’s bond was reduced to $200,000, and his defense attorney Brian Alexander said Thursday that Laurent may be able to post that bond prior to his court date on June 28.

“I think the judge’s decision was well-justified and warranted,” Alexander said. “If my client gets out of jail, he will focus on preparing for trial and spend time with his family.”

Laurent is accused of killing his wife, Brandi Hawkins Laurent, in August 2007.

The case was supposed to be tried on April 19, but it was moved to June because one of the state’s star witnesses was not able to be in court because she was pregnant and ill.

Prior to the April 19 trial date, defense attorneys presented a motion asking Clark to reduce Laurent’s $1 million bond so they could have more time with him to prepare for trial.

The state, in turn, filed a motion to have Laurent’s bond revoked, citing two previous felony embezzlement arrests for which Laurent was on bond when he was arrested for murder in January 2008.

The state had argued that Laurent was a flight risk and pointed to the fact that Laurent missed a mandatory court date in Pearl River County on an unrelated charge as evidence.

In January 2008, Carol Pearson, the owner of A-1 Outlaw Bonding, told the Echo that Laurent was “on the lam” and that she had to “trick” him into returning to Mississippi.

“He was called the night before,” she said. “He was aware he had to be there. He is on the run. I’m going to have someone looking for him.”

A few days later, Laurent turned himself in at the Pearl River County jail thinking he could post another bond and be free again, she said.

Pearson and her company surrendered Laurent’s bond, and a circuit court warrant from Pearl River County did not allow him to post another bond.

Alexander argued that Laurent turned himself in voluntarily.

Once Laurent was jailed in Pearl River County, he asked to speak with Hancock Sheriff Steve Garber and Chief Investigator Kenny Hurt, who obtained a confession from him about his alleged involvement in Brandi’s death, they said.

A week later, he was charged with murder by Hancock County and has remained in custody ever since.

Clark said one important factor in reducing the bond was that Laurent was never indicted on the second embezzlement charge in Hancock County.

A second felony indictment is usually necessary to revoke a bond.

Clark said the record of the charge is “hazy.”

“Although the state argued that Laurent is a flight risk, he turned himself into authorities after learning that there was a warrant for his arrest,” Clark said. “The proof is not sufficient for this court to revoke bond, and the current bond is excessive.”

Clark concluded the motion by citing that Laurent has lived in Hancock County his whole life and his family here as reasons for reducing the bond.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Fisher said Thursday he has filed a motion asking Clark to reconsider the decision to lower the bond.

Laurent is scheduled to appear in court on June 28 in Hattiesburg to answer to the charge of murder.

The case was moved to Hattiesburg because of heavy media coverage of the case.

BY: Dwayne Bremer

The Sea Coast Echo

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