Dakota Theriot was in a Livingston Parish courtroom before the Honorable Brenda B. Ricks on Jan. 11th, where he pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. Each charge carries a life in prison sentence. He was sentenced to life without the benefit of parole. It’s been nearly four years since the horrific murders of his parents, girlfriend and her family.

He is expected to head to Ascension Parish at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday where he’s expected to be in court to accept two more first-degree murder pleas there for the killings of his parents.
Dakota Theriot

Theriot killed Billy, Summer and Tanner Ernest on the morning of Jan. 26, 2019, before driving to Ascension Parish and killing his parents, Keith and Elizabeth Theriot. Summer Ernest, 20, was his girlfriend, Billy Ernest, 47, was Summer’s father and Tanner, 17, was her brother. He had been living with his girlfriend for about two weeks at the time of the killings in Walker. Officials say he then drove nearly 1,000 miles to Warsaw, Virginia to his grandmother’s house where he was apprehended. 

Officials learned Dakota Theriot was headed to Virginia so they put his grandmother in a hotel for her safety and law enforcement happened to be waiting in her driveway when he pulled up. That’s when he was arrested and brought back to Louisiana to face charges in both Livingston & Ascension parishes.

Victim Impact Statements

Four family members gave victim impact statements Wednesday: Darryn Magee, Summer and Tanner’s stepbrother, Evelyn Sing, Billy’s mother and Tanner and Summer’s grandmother, Crystal DeYoung, Billy’s sister, and the siblings’ aunt and Rhonda Champagne, Summer and Tanner’s mother.

DeYoung said when she heard that three family members had been hurt, she thought it was an accident, she never assumed it was murder.

She said she immediately went to check on her mother (Sing) who had been rocked by the news.

“The look in my mom’s eyes was engrained in my brain,” DeYoung said. “My mom turned and said ‘just kill me now. I can’t deal with this pain.’ Driving up to the church to see three hearses and three coffins with your loved ones in it is an image that will never leave my mind.”

DeYoung then turned to Theriot who was standing to her left clad in an orange jumpsuit and addressed him.

“I’m not going to lie, I hated you,” she said. “For all those four years, I hated you. The pain you caused us will never go away. I don’t hate you anymore but I also wished at times you were dead. For the first time in almost four years in the court, I saw you as a person and not the devil.”

Champagne recalled when she spoke to the detective and he uttered words, she never expected.

“There was an incident with Tanner and Summer. They were shot and killed,” Champagne said the detective told her. “Two nights will replay in my head. The Friday before, which was the last time I saw them alive, and Feb. 9, 2009, when I said goodbye as I saw them laying in their caskets. We didn’t win. He (Theriot) didn’t win. Justice is served but that doesn’t bring my kids back.”

Sing explained how her world got turned upside down on that day.

“January 26, 2019, was absolutely the worst day of my life,” she said. “That was news absolutely no mother or grandmother wants to here. On that day not only did they die, but we as a family died. I’ve never had Thanksgiving or Christmas at my home since that day. It’s not the same without them.

“Every holiday we are decorating graves instead of hugging each other,” she continued. “This is not closure for us. This is their day. They’re finally getting justice after four long agonizing years.”
Family members of Billy, Summer, and Tanner Ernest speak outside of the Livingston Parish Courthouse on Wednesday.

What’s next?

Livingston Parish District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said COVID-19 and Theriot’s documented history of psychological issues played a part in the delay.

Perrilloux said his office was initially seeking the death penalty but he detailed the process of what led to Wednesday’s plea.

“His particular psychiatric history was one thing and in today’s climate, getting someone executed at all, it doesn’t happen,” he said. “We haven’t had one in Louisiana since 2010. There aren’t any scheduled. Another big consideration was the victims’ family and their desire. Death penalty cases I can say from experience, just don’t end. You never close your file. I think the victims’ family recognized that and was interested in bringing this to a conclusion. The life sentence ensures that he is going to spend the rest of his natural life in prison and they were on board with that.”

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