Victims’ families voice outrage at Houma serial killer’s plea arraignment

Agnes Sutherland Naquin
September 30, 2008
October 2
October 2, 2008
Agnes Sutherland Naquin
September 30, 2008
October 2
October 2, 2008

Ronald Dominique, hands cuffed in front and dressed in bright white prison garb, sat motionless most of last Tuesday morning, staring at the defense table while relatives of his murder victims wept and told the court how his acts had devastated their lives.

Dominique, 44, was sentenced to eight consecutive life terms Tuesday at the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse in a plea arrangement for killing eight men in Terrebonne Parish between 1997 and 2005 after having sex with them, then dumping the bodies. He will be sent to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, said his defense attorney Richard Gooreley with the Louisiana Capital Assistance Project.

A ninth body found in Terrebonne was later determined to have been killed outside the parish.

“He (Dominique) devastated this small community,” said Terrebonne Parish District Attorney Joseph Waitz Jr.

Victims’ families did not want to seek the death penalty mainly because the appeals process would take too long, said Assistant District Attorney Mark Rhodes, who was the lead prosecutor for the Serial Killer Task Force.

“The lives of eight young men were taken by the defendant,” said Rhodes, who compared Dominique to “a two-headed hydra.” “He callously killed the victims and left a lifetime of pain… The life sentence was not just an act of mercy. The appeals process was a major factor.”

According to Waitz, typically the appeals process would last at least 12 years. But because of the high number of murders involved, the length of time would have been longer.

Waitz said Dominique’s lifetime stay in prison would allow families time to heal.

Dominique, who was arrested at a Terrebonne Parish homeless shelter in December 2006, gave up his right to appeal, as well as to a trial by jury, as part of the plea deal.

He is accused of killing 14 more men in other parishes. Officials have stated they are not certain whether he will be prosecuted for those crimes or whether they will seek the death penalty, Waitz said.

“Any pursuit of charges would be a waste of taxpayers’ money because he’s already serving a life sentence,” Gooreley said.

Presiding state District Court Judge Randall Bethancourt asked Dominique about his education and work history. Dominique, who is from Bayou Blue, said he graduated from Thibodaux High School in 1983 and studied computer keyboards at Thibodaux Vo-Tech. He has worked as a convenience store manager.

Seven relatives of the victims spoke toward the end of the roughly 90-minute sentencing hearing as part of the Victim Impact Statement process. All were highly emotional.

Dominique was not required to respond to their statements. When asked by Bethancourt if he wanted to make a statement, Dominique responded “no.”

Chris Cunningham, the brother of victim Kirk Cunningham, read from a statement, saying, “Kirk didn’t deserve to die the way he did. Any punishment given to this man would never compare to the horrible death he did to my brother. My brother is in a better place. He’s finally home.”

“The negative impact this has caused my family is beyond comprehension,” he said. “Kirk was a good kid. He can never grow old. The pain will never go away. I’ll miss him till the day I die.”

He then told Dominique, ” I hope hell finds you fast.”

The sister of victim Alonzo Hogan said Hogan was slow and had mental problems, but did not bother anyone.

“It hurts me every day,” she said. “I have to see my mom go through this. How could you do something so cruel? He didn’t deserve to die. Not like this.”

“Every day, we have to live with this,” she said. “He didn’t have no drug problem, he wasn’t gay, he just had mental problems. I have to forgive you. I pray to God to forgive you.”

The sister of victim Chris DeVille spoke about the condition of her brother’s body, which was discovered in a cane field.

“I know he had problems, everybody has problems,” she said. “He was on drugs, he did things he shouldn’t do, but he still had respect for my mother. We loved him, cared about him. I never imagined I would lose him that way.”

“No matter what they do to him (Dominique), it won’t bring him back,” she said. “When we found him, he was bones. We had to bury bones. You wanted to lead a lifestyle where you didn’t want to leave victims behind. People didn’t care about him (DeVille) but I did.”

Other relatives of victims described how family members had to receive counseling because of their losses and how they wished they had a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones.

In a letter to the court read by Rhodes, Angelle Smith, the mother of victim Wayne Smith, said that Dominique should have gotten professional help.

“I did not get to see my boy for the last time,” she wrote. “No goodbye, to say ‘I love you’ one more time. How did you kill my son? I can’t sleep at night. I can’t think right no more.”

Jody LeBoeuf, sister of victim Nicholas Pellegrin, also said that Dominique should have gotten help.

“We could not tell him we loved and missed him (Pellegrin),” she said. “My brother had been having problems. … It will take time. I don’t believe how he (Dominique) did this to these families.”

After the sentencing, Domini-que’s sister talked with victim’s families privately in the court. Rhodes could only say she was “magnanimous” to the relatives.

Rhodes praised the relatively short 18 months the case took to conclude, but both he and Waitz were incredulous about the number of killings that occurred.

“Twenty-three,” Waitz said. “We don’t get that number in an entire year.”

Serial killer Ronald Dominique, formerly of Bayou Blue, is led away from court last week after pleading guilty to eight charges of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to serve eight consecutive life terms at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. * Photo by KEYON K. JEFF