Riggenbach killing of officer, neighbor proceeds as capital case

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August 6, 2013
Agnes Daspit Kennedy
August 7, 2013

Prosecutors are preparing a case for death to the man accused of murdering a Chitmacha tribal police officer and a man on whose property he lived, as well as wounding two St. Mary Parish deputies.

Attorneys for Wilbert Thibodeaux are meanwhile preparing to counter that their client is so mentally ill that he cannot be held accountable. Doctors are expected to examine him to determine whether he is competent to stand trial at all.

The announcement of prosecution plans to seek the death penalty was made in a Franklin courtroom Thursday before District Judge Keith Comeaux.

Thibodeaux is accused of fatally shooting Sgt. Rick Riggenbach on Jan. 26, after allegedly killing 78-year-old Eddie Lyons, whose mobile home he allegedly burned. He also allegedly shot the two deputies, who responded at around the same time as Riggenbach to a report of a man carrying a gun and a gasoline can on Flat Town Road in Charenton, near the Cypress Bayou Casino.

A State Police investigative report on the incidents has not been completed.

“We are still gathering medical records,” said public defender Craig Colwart. “The judge gave us until Oct. 1 to file papers for a sanity commission.”

Colwart said he wants as many of his client’s medical records available as possible for review by doctors, but that hasn’t been easy.

In most cases Thibodeaux, who has been described as severely mentally ill by neighbors and relatives, has refused to sign releases.

Because of his refusal, a court order had to be signed by Comeaux in one instance.

The sanity commission will determine whether Thibodeaux is capable of assisting in his own defense. If doctors determine he cannot, then he could be sent for reparative therapy to make him competent.

If that is not possible then he could be committed to a mental hospital for an indefinite period of time.

The insanity defense that will be presented if a trial commences will see defense attorneys trying to prove that, because of mental disease or defect, Thibodeaux cannot be held responsible for the crimes alleged.

A status conference on the case is scheduled for Oct. 29.