Death penalty sought in tribal officer’s shooting

Staff and Associated Press reports

FRANKLIN, La. — Prosecutors in St. Mary Parish will seek the death penalty against a Charenton man indicted in the deaths earlier this year of a neighbor and a Chitimacha Tribal police officer.

The announcement came Thursday that Wilbert Thibodeaux, 48, changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity in the fatal shooting of 78-year-old Eddie Lyons of Charenton and Chitimacha Police Sgt. Rick Riggenbach on Jan. 26.

Riggenbach, 53, of Bayou Vista, was a 15-year veteran of law enforcement in St. Mary Parish, having worked 10 years and eight months with the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office and four years, five months with the Chitimacha Police Department.

Thibodeaux was indicted on March 19 on two counts of first-degree murder and initially pleaded not guilty. He was also charged with wounding two St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies and setting Lyons’ mobile home on fire.

Sheriff’s deputies Jason Javier and Matthew Strickland were wounded while responding to the arson.

On Jan. 26, Javier, Strickland and Riggenbach responded to a report of a man, armed with a shotgun walking on Flat Town Road in Charenton.

Riggenbach encountered Thibodeaux, when he arrived at the scene. Thibodeaux fired at Riggenbach, killing him, authorities said.

When Javier and Strickland arrived at the scene in the same unit, Thibodeaux fired multiple shots hitting the deputies, authorities said.

Thibodeaux was also shot during the encounter. Other responding deputies took Thibodeaux into custody without further incident.

Javier and Strickland were released from the hospital several days after the shootings.

Defense attorney Craig Colwart said District Judge Keith Comeaux gave the public defender’s office until Oct. 1 to file a motion for a sanity hearing.

His defense team is still gathering Thibodeaux's medical records.

"We are trying to collect all the information we can showing his medical history," Colwart said Thursday. "Right now we are still waiting on records from Texas."

Colwart said Thibodeaux was institutionalized at a mental facility in Texas for a short period last year. He is being held at a mental institution at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center.

Neighbors living in the Flat Town Road area said Thibodeaux's behavior had become erratic in the weeks leading up to the shooting.

Reporting from The Associated Press contributed to this story.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

Franklin Banner-Tribune
P.O. Box 566, Franklin, LA 70538
Phone: 337-828-3706
Fax: 337-828-2874

Morgan City Daily Review
P.O. Box 948, Morgan City, LA 70381
Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255

Follow Us