After two days of testimony, the state has only one witness remaining in the Leo Lucas Laurent Jr. murder trial.
Prosecutors are expected to call Forensic Pathologist Dr. Paul McGarry to the stand Wednesday morning before yielding to the defense.
The trial began Monday at the Forrest County Courthouse in Hattiesburg.
It was moved to Hattiesburg because of media coverage on the Gulf Coast.
|Hancock Sheriff’s Investigator Matthew Carver points out Laurent in court.|
Laurent, 33, is accused of killing his wife Brandi Hawkins Laurent, 29, at the couple’s rural Hancock County home on August 3, 2007.
Her body was discovered 100 days later in a shallow grave about a half-mile from the couple’s home, by a Texas-based search group.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Fisher began opening statements by saying Brandi’s husband, Leo Laurent, was the last person to see her alive.
“A search for Brandi would take months,” Fisher said. “At every turn, the investigation was thwarted, and it is because of that man sitting right there,” Fisher said, pointing at the defendant.
The state has indicated that the cause of Brandi’s death was strangulation.
Laurent’s attorney Brian Alexander conceded that Leo was present when Brandi was killed, but said her death was an accident.
Alexander painted a picture of a domestic argument gone wrong, and a struggle for a gun which ended tragically.
“The state’s evidence will show you that they don’t know what they think they know,” Alexander told the jury.
Alexander said Brandi had a drug problem and that she was on a “three-day high” on the evening of August 3, 2007.
“She had a raging dug problem,” Alexander told jurors.
Alexander admitted that Leo Laurent did some “weird” things after Brandi disappeared, but those actions did not have anything to do with how she died.
“Don’t allow what happened after to prejudice you,” Alexander told the jury. “What led up to the time she died is the best indicator.”
Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy James Alphonso testified that he took a missing person’s report on August 5, 2007 from Leo Laurent.
Laurent told deputies his wife had left in the middle of the evening, wearing flip-flops, tan shorts, and a green shirt.
Sheriff’s Investigator Matthew Carver said a post made on the social network MySpace from Brandi’s profile was made after she was reported missing.
The post said that Brandi had allegedly run off to Missouri with another man.
Carver said that after the discovery of the MySpace post, investigators began considering the possibility of foul play.
The post was traced back to the Laurents’ home, Carver said, but Leo Laurent had denied having his wife’s password.
|Brandi Laurent’s mother, Anita Stroud, and sister Jessica Fisher hug during court Tuesday.|
Mississippi Highway Patrol Investigator Joel Wallace testified that during the next three months, Laurent led law enforcement into many dead ends.
Wallace said he and Laurent got very close during that time, and that Laurent would often call him about a myriad of things.
“Over and over again, we were checking out other people that Mr. Laurent had pointed out to us,” Wallace said. “Things were not adding up.”
Wallace said Laurent made several different statements to him and other law enforcement officers during the course of the investigation.
On January 7, 2008, Leo Laurent finally admitted to being involved in his wife’s death, Wallace said.
Wallace testified that Laurent said after his wife’s death, Laurent told him he had put her body in a trash can, loaded the body in the back of the family’s van, put his two-year-old daughter in the van, and drove off.
“He said he saw a tree throught the moon-light and said “this would be a nice place for Brandi to be.”
Wallace said Laurent then said he kissed her goodbye, showed the body to the baby, covered Brandi with dirt, and then drove away.
Wallace broke down in tears several times during his testimony. Members of the jury also appeared to be in tears when Wallace described how Laurent had disposed of his wife’s body.
On Tuesday, prosecutors called Brandi’s mother Anita Stroud to the stand. Stroud recounted how she searched for her daughter and gotten other people involved.
Stroud said she and other family and friends had searched relentelessly and even went into “high-crime” areas to try to locate Brandi.
Stroud said she was scared because she thought Brandi may have been abducted by someone, so she began carrying a gun.
She said Leo showed her how to use the gun and even took her out for target practice.
The wooded area where they practiced shooting was the same area where Brandi’s body would later be found, Stroud said.
A former girlfriend of Leo Laurent also testified to his bizarre behavior after the disappearance and the discovery of Brandi’s body.
Kim Cooley testified that she had met Leo Laurent shortly before his wife disappeared.
|Leo Laurent’s former girlfriend Kim Cooley said she was “terrified” of Laurent after Brandi’s body was found.|
A few days after the disappearance, Cooley said Leo called her wanting to begin a romantic relationship.
“I felt sorry for him and his kids,” Cooley said. “He told me his wife had left him and he was all alone.”
Cooley said she and Leo were planning to go on a cruise before Brandi Laurent’s body was discovered in a shallow grave on November 10, 2007.
Cooley also testified that she witnessed Laurent — in a fit of rage on Halloween night –throw away all of Brandi’s belongings, rip up photos, and destroy items from their marriage.
“He was very aggravated by her,” Cooley said. “He said he was mad at her for going away.”
Hancock County Sheriff’s Investigator André Fizer testified that on January 7, 2008, he and Wallace obtained a video statement from Laurent about his wife’s death.
Laurent also gave investigators a reenactment of his version of the shooting.
Former Mississippi Crime Scene Investigator Grant Graham testified that a small bullet hole was located in Laurent’s bedroom, but that the trajectery of the bullet did not match with the video reenactment which Laurent gave law enforcement.
Graham said he had investigated the home on two occasions and did not see the bullet hole on the first occasion.
Defense attorney Jim McGuire objected to he findings, saying that Laurent could not produce the proper angle because he was in handcuffs during the video.
Graham said with the angle he was shown, Laurent would have fired into the floor and not the wall.
Graham said lumina tests indcated there was a possible blood stain on the west wall of the bedroom, but that was the opposite wall which Laurent claimed to have shot into.
The case will continue today with McGarry taking the stand. McGarry is expected to reveal that Brandi was killed by strangulation.
It is unclear if the defense plans to call Laurent to the stand.