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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: The prosecutor stated that Hebert was resentful of her ex-husband
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: August 20, 2007
Date of arrest: Same day (suicide attempt)
Date of birth: 1967
Victim profile: Her two children, Camille, 9, and Braxton, 7
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Mathews, Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, USA
Status: Sentenced to two consecutive life sentences on June 24, 2009
photo gallery

State of Louisiana
Court of Appeal, First Circuit

State of Louisiana v. Amy T. Hebert (20.7 Mb)

Amy Hebert is a woman from Mathews, an unincorporated area in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, who was convicted of murdering her two children in August 2007. She was sentenced to life in prison.


Amy Hebert, born Amy Talbot, was an Evangelical Christian and worked as a teacher's aide at Lockport Lower Elementary School in Lockport, Louisiana. She originated from Lafourche Parish. At one time she resided in Thibodaux. In her criminal trial experts summoned by the prosecution and the defense stated that Hebert had been severely depressed around the time of the crime.

Chad Hebert, her husband, sought a divorce in 2005, and it was concluded during the following year, in April 2006. Chad Hebert subsequently entered into a relationship with another woman; he married her in 2008.

At the times of their deaths Braxton John Hebert, the boy, attended Lockport Lower, while his sister, Camille Catherine Hebert, attended Lockport Upper Elementary School. Chad and Amy Hebert jointly held custody of them.


On August 20, 2007, Amy Hebert fatally stabbed her children and the family dog; Camille was 9 and Braxton was 7. Hebert told a psychiatrist that Camille had begged for her life. The children had defensive wounds to their hands and arms.

Camille had about 30-35 stab wounds to the front of her torso while Braxton had about 50-55 stab wounds to his torso, with about 30 to the front and 20-25 to the back. All of Camille's vital organs had been hit, and both victims had been stabbed in the heart. Camille was also stabbed on her scalp about 30 times; the blade did not penetrate her skull.

Amy Hebert also stabbed herself about 30 times. She gave herself wounds in the abdomen, chest, neck, and wrist.

A coworker who noticed Hebert did not show up to work drove by her house and, after knocking on the door and receiving no response, contacted a member of her family. The father dialed 9-1-1, asking authorities to check on the welfare of the children.

His father, R.J. "Buck" Hebert, came to the house and discovered the injured Amy Hebert and the dead victims. Deputies of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office subsequently entered the house, and used a taser to subdue Hebert.

Hebert was treated in the intensive care unit at Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital in Raceland.

Legal proceedings and punishment

As a pretrial inmate, after her hospitalization, Hebert was held at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women (LCIW), the sole state prison for women in Louisiana, instead of the Lafourche Parish jails. This arrangement was done since the parish facilities could not accommodate a female felon who needed medical care. Her bond was set to $1 million.

The prosecuting attorney was the district attorney of the parish, Camille "Cam" Morvant II. The defense lawyers were George Parnham, Goorley Stroud, and Marty Stroud; the first had defended Andrea Yates and the latter two were from Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana. This was the first capital murder case tried by Morvant.

The prosecutor stated that Amy Hebert was resentful of her ex-husband, while her defense attorneys argued she was under a form of insanity. Dr. Alexandra Philips, the psychiatrist at Ochsner St. Anne, stated that Hebert had told her "Satan was in the room laughing at her".

Both the prosecution and defense had psychiatrists who supported their respective versions of the events. The prosecutor also presented two suicide notes written by the woman to her ex-husband and mother in law, which stated that he had committed infidelity and that he would not get the children.

Sophia Ruffin of Houma Times characterized the notes as "vitriolic". According to testimony done during the criminal trial, the mother-in-law encouraged the children to have a relationship with their stepmother, something Amy Hebert disapproved of.

Amy Hebert was convicted of the murders and received two life sentences, one for each child. Jurors voted on whether to give her the death penalty, but the 9-3 vote in favor of death did not successfully sentence her to death, as the State of Louisiana requires a unanimous decision for the death penalty; therefore, the default punishment of life in prison applied. The trial had a cost of about $100,000.

As a sentenced felon, Hebert is incarcerated at LCIW. In 2011 and 2015 Hebert's appeals were denied by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Subsequently Hebert entered an appeal in federal court. The appeal accused the attorney of doing low quality work and the courts of improperly vetting the jury pool.


The visitations of the bodies of Braxton and Camille Hebert occurred at Falgout Funeral Home in Lockport, and the funeral for the victims was held at the St. Hilary of Poitiers Catholic Church in Mathews. Another memorial service occurred at Victory of Life Church in Lockport. The children were buried at Resurrection Memorial Park in Mathews.

The 501(C)(3) Camille and Braxton Hebert Memorial Fund Inc. was used to establish recreational areas/playgrounds at Lockport Lower and Lockport Upper. The playground at Lockport Lower has the text "Braxton's Buddies". Camille's Court, at Lockport Upper, was scheduled to be a basketball court decorated with a plaque and flowerbed. Scholarships in the names of both children for education major students were established at Nicholls State University.


Mathews woman loses appeal over deaths of 2 children

Brett Barrouquere -

October 3, 2015

A 48-year-old Mathews woman serving consecutive life sentences for killing her two young children lost her bid to overturn her convictions.

The Louisiana Supreme Court on Friday rejected Amy T. Hebert's claims that her trial attorney provided a constitutionally inadequate defense in 2009. The court, in an unsigned opinion, concluded that Hebert also failed to show her appeals attorneys ignored issues and that there was no "reasonable probability" she would have won on appeal if her attorneys had raised other issues.

A jury in Thibodaux found Hebert, who is serving her sentence at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel, guilty in 2009 of Camille, 9, and son Braxton, 7, at their home.

Hebert pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Jurors declined to impose a death sentence sought by prosecutors.

The court cited 17th Judicial District Judge Jeromme J. Barbera III's ruling in 2014, which denied Hebert's request to overturn her first-degree murder conviction and sentence, in the decision.

Barbera concluded that “defense counsel used their experience and training in the most skillful manner to properly defend the petitioner against the charge.”

Police described Hebert's attack on her children as particularly violent, with her former father-in-law having to break into her house Aug. 20, 2007. Teachers had noticed the children hadn't shown up for school, and their mother hadn't gone to work.

R.J. "Buck" Hebert testified that followed a trail of blood to the master bedroom, where he found Hebert in bed with the two dead children.

"A lot of blood," Buck Hebert said in court. "And when I walked in I saw Camille laying … full of blood."

Deputies used a Taser to separate Hebert from the children she was clutching. Deputies also found the family's dog dead in the bed as well as a multiple knives.

Along with attacking the children, Hebert, a former teacher's aide at Lockport Lower Elementary, stabbed or cut herself 19 times, leaving gaping lacerations on her wrists, stab wounds in her eyelids and deep puncture wounds in her neck and chest.

"I killed my children," Hebert told Lafourche Parish Sheriff's detectives Chad Shelby and Barron Cortopassi, according to their accounts in court records. "I stabbed them."

Hebert was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder after a two-month trial, and her convictions were affirmed on appeal in 2011.

"This was a horrific crime scene," Barbera said. "Blood, in a case, like this, is evidence … There are all kinds of ways to connect people by testing blood."


Mom sentenced to 2 life terms

By Sophia Ruffin -

June 24, 2009

With little fanfare, Amy Hebert was sentenced Thursday to two consecutive life sentences for brutally murdering her 9- year-old daughter Camille and 7-year-old son Braxton inside their Mathews home Aug. 20, 2007.

Wearing the blue garb of Louisiana Corrections Institute for Women inmates, Hebert sat in silence as defense attorneys Richard Goorley and George Parnham made a final appeal for a new trial, arguing it was impossible for the 42-year-old former school paraprofessional to receive an impartial trial.

After nearly two weeks of testimony in May, it took a 12-person jury less than three hours to find Hebert guilty of bludgeoning her children with several kitchen knives in the early morning hours. Experts said on the stand that the children each had more than 50 stab wounds - many piercing their bodies.

After hearing additional testimony, including tearful statements from the children's father and Hebert's family, only nine of the 12 jurors voted in favor of sentencing her to the death penalty. Instead, in accordance with state law, District Judge Jerome Barbera issued the consecutive sentences.

The lesser sentence, however, drew objections from Goorley and Parnham.

"I have one question," Goorley said from the Lafourche Parish Courthouse steps shortly after the vedict was rendered. "How do you serve a life sentence after you're dead? Having her serve two consecutive life sentences doesn't serve a purpose, but it looks good on paper."

Lafourche Parish District Attorney Cam Morvant sees it differently, however.

He said the sentences were appropriate based on the heinousness of the crime and the pending appeal.

"I wanted to be prepared in case something happens with one of the counts," Morvant said. "If one gets reversed, it still means she has to serve out a life sentence for the other (murder)."

Were a governor ever to commute Hebert's sentence, the district attorney said she would still be facing a second life sentence. "I think that's appropriate based on the horrible acts that she did," he added.

As Lafourche Parish deputies escorted Hebert back to prison, her case was turned over to the Louisiana Appellate Project, thus ending the legal dealings for the time being.

David versus Goliath

The Hebert trial pitted Morvant, who had never tried a capital case in his 26 years as a Lafourche attorney, against Goorley and Marty Stroud, both of the Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana, and Parnham.

Goorley's recent connection to the Tri-parishes dates back to last September, when he defended serial killer Ronald Dominique, who pleaded guilty to murders in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Parnham was thrust into the spotlight when he unsuccessfully defended Houston mom Andrea Yates, who was found guilty of drowning her five children in the bathtub in her house.

Yates' defense, much like Hebert's, focused on severe depression and psychosis. In preparation of Hebert's trial, Morvant made several calls and trips to Houston to review court transcripts from the Yates trial and speak directly with prosecutors who argued the case.

The local investigation and trial, which cost Lafourche Parish taxpayers close to $100,000, makes Hebert's case the most expensive trial the district attorney has tried. With the appeal still pending, the final tally is still unknown.

For their part, Goorley and Parnham flew in experts to testify that Hebert suffered from severe depression for years and, on the morning she arose to an imagined voice ordering her to kill her sleeping children by repeatedly stabbing them, was psychotic.

Morvant, on the other hand, relied on the testimony of three experts of his own, who painted Hebert as in control of her actions the days leading up to the murders.

"A lot of capital cases cost substantially more than what this case cost," Morvant said. "I've heard of some reaching $500,000, and that's not including the appeal process. Regardless, this was money well spent."

Well spent, he reasons, because of the crimes themselves.

'It had to be the death penalty based on what she did'

According to state law, the murders of Camille and Braxton warranted first-degree murder charges by definition, Morvant explained.

"It had to be the death penalty based on what she did," he said. "She killed more than one person under the age of 12. That meets at least two of the criteria for first-degree murder."

But the atrociousness of the crime shook local law enforcement authorities to the core.

Responding to a "well-being call" from the children's father and Hebert's ex-husband, Chad Hebert, deputies walked into a bloody scene Aug. 20, 2007.

The children's paternal grandfather, R.J. "Buck" Hebert, told jurors of finding his former daughter-in-law in the bloody master bedroom after he climbed inside a utility room window.

"Oh God, help," a deputy at the scene remembered hearing Buck Hebert cry out. The off-duty officer would be the first lawman to uncover the horrific murder scene.

Following a blood trail to the master bedroom, deputies found Hebert lying in bed with her deceased children at either side. On the bed, 11 kitchen knives - including an electrical knife - were recovered. As deputies pulled the covers from the bed to retrieve the children's bodies, the body of the family dog, also stabbed multiple times, fell to the floor.

In court, Morvant played video captured from the Taser, in which Hebert is seen holding a knife and threatening authorities to leave the residence. It would be the only time jurors would hear Hebert speak throughout the two-week trial.

On the video, Hebert was visibly bleeding from self-inflicted stab wounds to her wrists, chest and neck. In all, Parnham said his client had more than 30 wounds.

"The plan was for her to commit suicide in the ultimate act of revenge against her ex-husband," Morvant said in his closing argument. "It all fell apart and that's why we're here."

Based on forensic psychologist Dr. Glenn Wolfner Ahava's testimony, the defense theorized that Hebert heard psychotic hallucinations ordering her to kill herself and the children to prevent her ex-husband from gaining custody of the children. Ahava spent more than 70 hours interviewing Hebert and conducting a battery of tests to determine if she was falsifying psychotic symptoms.

Hebert told Ahava she stabbed Camille first while her brother Braxton slept nearby. Hebert said she followed her daughter to the master bathroom where she repeatedly stabbed her.

A Jefferson Parish assistant coroner testified Camille had more than 30 stab wounds in her torso and another 30 to her scalp, while Braxton had more than 30 wounds to the front of his body and an additional 20 to 25 puncture wounds in his back.

Both children had defensive wounds on their arms where they had tried to prevent Hebert from stabbing them, the coroner said.

Photographs from the crime scene continue to haunt jurors to this day.

"They died a slow and painful death," Ahava said from the stand. And as she plunged the knife into her daughter, the child begged for her life.

"Mommy, I love you. I don't want to die," Hebert recalled her daughter saying, Ahava testified. Hebert replied, "I love you too, but (the children's father Chad Hebert) is coming to get you and we have to be together," the psychiatrist recounted.

Hebert reportedly told Dr. Alexandra Phillips, a psychiatrist at Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital in Raceland where she was originally medically treated in the days following the murders, that "Satan was in the room laughing at her," the doctor testified.

Defense witness Dr. Phillip Resnick, an Ohio-based psychiatrist, told jurors that Hebert suffered from eight of the nine indicators for someone suffering from major depression with psychotic features.

Based on her reasoning abilities at the time of the murder, Resnick said Hebert "killed out of love, not hate. She psychologically believed the children were better off in heaven. Her deposed, distorted thinking made her unable to rationally weigh if the homicide was right or wrong."

Forensic psychiatrist Raphael Salcedo countered for the prosecution, arguing that although she may have been depressed the days before the murders, Hebert did know right from wrong the morning of Aug. 20, 2007.

Case turns on suicide notes

Jurors later agreed that the psychiatric evidence was less telling than two vitriolic suicide notes penned by Hebert that detectives found at the scene.

In his closing argument, Morvant said Hebert harbored anger at her ex-husband for allegedly having an affair prior to the couple's divorce in 2005. Shortly before the murders, Chad Hebert announced plans to marry the woman he was reportedly seeing, Kimberly Mendoza.

The two have since married.

But a lack of the children's blood on the notes contradicted Hebert's claim that she had written the notes after the children were dead.

Morvant argued that it was the angry tone of Hebert's missives to her ex-husband and former mother-in-law that best demonstrated her intentions the morning of Aug. 20, 2007.

"You are telling me that you want to move on with your life, go ahead, but you are not getting the kids, too," Hebert wrote.

At one point, Hebert suggested her ex-husband use the monies collected from selling the house and the children's life insurance policies to "buy some more" children, Morvant noted, displaying the note on a courtroom wall.

"That is not the note of a psychotic, delusional person," he told jurors. "That is someone with rage and anger who wants to hurt someone."

The jury ultimately sided with Morvant, returning a guilty verdict in less than an hour.

But sentencing the Mathews woman to die for killing Camille and Braxton Hebert would prove a more daunting task.

'The jury had to decide'

From the outset, it was Morvant's intention to have a jury decide if Hebert should live or die for killing her children.

"I went over her mental issues and I was personally satisfied that she was not legally insane at the time she committed the crimes," he said. It was only then, six months after the murders, that Morvant filed motions seeking the death penalty.

"The jury had to determine whether she got the death penalty or life in prison. That's how the system works," he explained. "Deciding whether someone gets life or death is a lot different than whether someone is guilty or not. The death penalty is a lot more personal."

After nearly eight months of preparation, including several mock trials, Morvant's team was ready.

The prosecution called two people - Chad Hebert and his mother Judy Hebert - to speak to the impact Camille and Braxton Hebert's short lives had had on them.

"They were my angels and they meant the world to me," Chad Hebert said, struggling to maintain composure as he addressed the jury. "People ask me how I make it from day to day. I say I have a range of emotions that no one will ever be able to imagine.

"I can see photos of them and it just tears my heart out," Chad Hebert told the jury. "Then, I laugh sometimes when I remember the little things that make them special.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't cry," he added.

Chad Hebert admitted he had not viewed the crime scene photos. No one had to show him photographs to make clear the pain and fear his children endured in their final moments.

"No one can imagine what they went through," the tearful father said. "I have experienced emotions from one end to the other. But I know I have to get up and continue because that's what they would have wanted."

Chad Hebert's mother, Judy, sobbed as she spoke of her grandchildren playing doors down from her.

She's since sold her St. Anthony Street home to escape the memory.

"When God sends you children, he sends you joy," Judy Hebert said during the penalty phase of her former daughter-in- law's trial. "But when God sends you grandchildren, he sends you a blessing. They're your heart. And right now, I have a hole in my heart that will never be filled."

Amy Hebert's father, Daniel Talbot, took the stand to beg the jury to show his daughter mercy.

"I would like to take her home right now," he told the jury. "She doesn't deserve this. She was too good of a person. I never dreamed that this would have happened."

Over the course of the penalty phase and several times throughout the trial, witnesses recalled Hebert's excellent parenting skills. Even Chad Hebert said prior to Aug. 20, 2007, he considered his former wife and the mother of his two children to be beyond reproach as a parent.

"She is the nicest person you want to be around," her neighbor Mary "Bonnie" Morris said from the witness stand. "She has a big heart most of all. She is full in her faith and would give her shirt off her back if you needed it."

Even a prison guard with the state's women's correctional institute spoke on Hebert's behalf, suggesting she could help other inmates with Bible studies.

In the end, three members of the 12-person jury refused Morvant's request to sentence Hebert to death for murdering her children.

No one will ever be the same

In the weeks leading up to Thursday's sentencing, jurors, attorneys and family and friends have been slowly returning to post-trial life.

Chad Hebert's family maintained their silence about the case, but a Web site posted at continues to display photographs and memories of young Camille and Braxton.

As Amy Hebert adjusts to prison life, the district attorney responsible for putting her there is readying for his second capital murder case: Billy Daigle, who is accused of running down a Lafourche Parish sheriff's deputy.

"(The Hebert trial) was an emotionally, physically grueling and draining process," he said. "It was every day. We put in 14 to 16 hours a day on this case.

"I still think about it," he added. "I had to look at those (crime scene) photos off and on for a year and a half."

Morvant would show those photos of the children's bodies to jurors only once, knowing the impact it would forever have.

"I knew it would have an impact on some of them," he said. "I know what impact it had on me."

Gheens resident Sheila Toups, 57, who sat on the jury, said she hopes to never be called again for a capital murder case.

"It was very upsetting," she said. "It is something I will never, ever forget."

For those closest to Amy Hebert, the unimaginable events of Aug. 20, 2007, remain a mystery.

Ann Tabary, a longtime friend of Hebert's, recalls standing in for the Mathews woman when she married Chad Hebert and visiting after Camille and Braxton were born.

The two friends continue to talk by phone and Tabary visited Hebert when she was being held in Lafourche Parish. She has vowed to stand by Hebert in the years ahead.

"I am so blessed that God has placed her in my life," she said. "Her friendship means the world to me.

"I am praying and looking forward to the day when I will be a witness to her testimony, which she will share with the world," she added.

Tabery isn't alone.

Stacey Stegmann, a friend and fellow member at Victory of Life Church where Hebert and her children worshipped, said the Mathews woman continues to have an impact on others.

"She has a way of touching people's lives in ways I have never experienced," Stegmann said. "Most times, she never says a word. It's the presence and peace of God that she carries. It beams from her. Her heart is always wishing to please God first."

In memory of the children

Playgrounds were erected at Lockport Upper Elementary School where Camille Hebert attended the fourth grade. A similar facility bearing the banner "Braxton's Buddies" was built at Lockport Lower Elementary where her brother attended the fourth grade.

Chad Hebert also created scholarships to benefit students majoring in education in each of his children's names.

From the witness stand, he talked of his daughter's compassion and love for her brother. She enjoyed singing, dancing and sharing time with friends and family, according to Chad Hebert's memorial site.

Braxton, who often sported a "cheesy smile" in photographs, loved Thomas the Train, cars, water sports, being tickled and being with his sister.


Mom who killed kids gets life imprisonment

Raymond Legendre -

May 17, 2009

THIBODAUX — A Mathews mother who faced the death penalty for the murders of her two children will instead spend the rest of her life in prison after jurors disagreed about her punishment.

Shortly before noon Saturday, Judge Jerome Barbera announced to a packed courtroom that the jury of 10 women and two men in the capital-murder trial of Amy Hebert was unable to reach the unanimous verdict needed to sentence her to death. Therefore, in accordance with state law, Barbera ordered her penalty would be life imprisonment.

Hebert's ex-husband, Chad Hebert, looked straight ahead in silence following Barbera's ruling. After Barbera declared the court in recess, Amy Hebert thanked defense attorney Richard Goorley and told him she would pray for him, the attorney said.

Amy Hebert, a 42-year-old former teacher's aide, will spend the rest of her life at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel for fatally stabbing her 9-year-old daughter, Camille, and autistic 7-year-old son, Braxton, more than 30 times each on Aug. 20, 2007.

Hebert will be formally sentenced June 18 in Barbera's court. Her conviction will be appealed, Goorley said.

The same jury voted unanimously Thursday to convict her of two counts of first-degree murder after two weeks of intense and often-emotional testimony.

During the trial, Hebert's defense team argued a voice, who she later believed was either God or Satan, commanded her to kill her children to keep her ex-husband from taking them away from her forever.

But a pair of angry suicide notes Hebert wrote to her ex-husband and former mother-in-law, Judy Hebert, on the day of the murders helped lead the jury to reject the defendant's not guilty by reason of insanity plea, jurors said.

Jurors' views on whether Hebert should live or die were more splintered. The judge did not release the voting breakdown in court, but juror Erin Folse said three of her fellow jurors voted for life imprisonment.

During his 12-minute closing arguments Saturday morning, Lafourche District Attorney Cam Morvant II told jurors Hebert's crimes, due to their "pitiless" nature and the children's ages, met the "exceptional circumstances" required for use of the death penalty.

Despite his contention that her crimes warranted a death sentence, Morvant did not question the jury's decision afterward.

"I'm satisfied with the verdict," the prosecutor said after leaving the Courthouse Annex. "The jury deliberated, they heard all the evidence, and they made their decision."

Family members of both Hebert and her ex-husband declined comment after leaving the courthouse Saturday morning.

Goorley expressed relief at the jury's decision.

"After my closing arguments, I was drained and very hopeful," Goorley said. "I believe this to be the right sentence."

Goorley noted that he disagreed with the prosecution's pursuit of the death penalty against Hebert, who experts on both sides said suffered from severe depression.

Her crime met the state's statute for first-degree murder; therefore, it was pursued as such, Morvant explained.

During his 13-minute closing arguments, Goorley said the harshest penalty the jury could give Hebert was a life sentence.

"If you want punishment, there is punishment — a daily reminder of what she did to the people she loved the most," Goorley said. He expressed the same sentiments after the judge announced her sentence.

As he stood outside the courthouse under overcast skies, Goorley said Hebert's abundance of loving relationships with friends and family and lack of prior criminal history made her case the most unique he had handled. The Shreveport-based attorney noted he has provided defense in 100 first-degree-murder cases in his career.

After receiving the judge's instructions, jurors deliberated for an hour before returning.

Morvant said he had no complaints with the jury not taking longer to make their final decision.

"These people thought about it and made their decision," Morvant said, "and as district attorney of this parish I'm going to live with it."

Jury instructions

Barbera gave jurors a list of aggravating circumstances – factors that increase the severity of the penalty – and mitigating circumstances – factors that encourage leniency in sentencing – they could consider prior to making their decision.

Among the aggravating circumstances were the nature of the crimes, the children's age and the amount of people killed. The mitigating circumstances included her lack of a criminal record, her belief at the time of the offense the crimes were morally justified and her conduct at the time of the offense being impaired by a mental disease or defect.

After beginning their deliberations shortly before 10 a.m., the jury returned to court one hour later to ask Barbera what would happen if they did not all agree. He instructed them, if that occurred, the law dictated him to give Hebert a life sentence.


'Mommy, I don't want to die'

Raymond Legendre -

May 11, 2009

During testimony, psychologist recounts Amy Hebert’s description of her children’s final moments.

Amy Hebert’s 9-year-old daughter begged for her life before the knife-wielding mother stabbed her to death, a forensic psychologist testified Sunday during the Mathews woman’s capital-murder trial.

“ ‘Mommy, I don’t want to die. I love you,’ ”

Camille Hebert told her mother, according to psychologist Glenn Ahava’s testimony about his interviews of Hebert.

“ ‘I love you, too, but I can’t let daddy take you,’ ” he said Hebert replied, referring to her ex-husband, Chad Hebert.

She told her 7-year-old son, Braxton, the same thing, Ahava said.

Hebert, a 42-year-old former teacher’s aide at Lockport Lower Elementary, has entered dual pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the children’s deaths Aug. 20, 2007. She faces the possibility of the death sentence if convicted.

Court was also held Saturday, a session during which witnesses testified that Hebert and her ex-husband had sought to save their troubled marriage through counseling.

Ahava, who practices in Lafayette, testified Sunday that Hebert, a devout Evangelical Christian, told him during a series of jailhouse interviews last year that she was following the voice of God when she fatally stabbed her daughter, her mildly autistic son and the family’s dog, Princess.

The testimony came on the trial’s seventh day, in which a near-capacity crowd of family members, friends and spectators watched the proceedings in Judge Jerome Barbera’s courtroom.

“Ms. Hebert was and is a religious woman,” Ahava testified. “She had a delusion that God was speaking to her. She believed that by sacrificing her life, her children’s lives and the dog’s life she was following God’s will.”

The prosecution argues Hebert stabbed her children to death in an act of revenge against her ex-husband, who had announced his plans to marry another woman.

Ahava’s two-hour stay on the witness stand included statements about the content of Hebert’s suicide notes to her ex-husband and his mother.

The defense hired Ahava to judge whether Hebert was fabricating or exaggerating details of a mental disorder to avoid prosecution.

The psychologist testified he believes she was being truthful in her recollections. He determined she was psychotic, and therefore incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, when she killed her children.

Ahava said he came to this determination after interviewing the defendant four times, performing several psychological tests on her, interviewing several people who knew her and reviewing her medical records. Overall, he estimated he spent 70 hours working on the case.

Hebert told him she first stabbed her daughter while the girl slept in the master bedroom and then stabbed her in the bathroom. It was unclear from Ahava’s testimony at what point Camille Hebert looked upon her mother with fear and told her she loved her.

Ahava said Hebert also told him she brought her son into the living room and stabbed him on the couch.

“I believe it was a slow and painful death for the kids,” Ahava said.

As she has done at other points in the case, Hebert cried during Ahava’s testimony, as did her ex-husband.

The stabbings occurred after Hebert woke around 3 a.m. to a voice she believed was God urging her to kill her children and herself in order to preserve their family, she told Ahava. Their interviews occurred at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel, where Hebert was jailed at the time.

Hebert, he said, initially struggled with the voice’s commands. She twice retreated from the master bedroom, where the children slept, after finding herself unable to stab them.

Following the second failed attempt, the voice directed her to practice stabbing her daughter’s bed, Hebert told Ahava. After that, Ahava said, Hebert returned to the bedroom and stabbed the girl.

Earlier in the trial, forensic psychologist David Self of Texas testified that Hebert told him the voice she heard was that of Satan.

During his 67-minute cross-examination, Lafourche Parish District Attorney Cam Morvant II asked Ahava if he was familiar with the biblical story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Ahava acknowledged knowing the story, which ends with God revealing to Abraham a sacrificial ram moments before he would have killed his son.

“Was Abraham psychotic in your opinion?” Morvant asked Ahava.

“No, sir,” the psychologist replied. Morvant also bombarded Ahava with questions about the suicide notes Hebert wrote her ex-husband and his mother, Judy Hebert. While Hebert told Self the voice dictated the note’s contents to her, she did not say the same thing to Ahava.

She called her ex-husband and his soon-to-be wife, Kimberly, “lying, adulterating whores” for engaging in an affair while Amy and Chad were still married.

She lashed out at Judy Hebert for taking her children around the new woman and noted that was why she no longer allowed them to see Judy.

At the bottom of the note to Judy Hebert, she told her father and two sisters she was sorry.

“Nowhere in the note does she say the voice took over, right?” Morvant asked Ahava. The psychologist agreed.

Prior to Ahava’s testimony, the jury heard a half dozen of Hebert’s friends and coworkers describe her downcast mood and unfaltering love for her children.

Hebert’s close friend Robin Reed spoke of a prayer intervention she and Naomi Lyons held in Hebert’s bedroom in the summer of 2007 after she tearfully told Reed she felt like she had a demon inside her.

Hebert also expressed thoughts of suicide in a separate meeting during the same summer, Reed said.

“Amy was always a good mother,” Anthony Reed said. “I don’t know many mothers I would say were better mothers.”


Tearful testimony revealed at mom's trial

Raymond Legendre -

May 6, 2009

THIBODAUX - The father of the two children Amy Hebert killed on Aug. 20, 2007, told jurors Tuesday that his ex-wife was a good mother who he never believed would harm them, much less stab them with kitchen knives.

But Chad Hebert - and a parade of witnesses who followed him on the stand in District Judge Jerome Barbera's courtroom - also spoke of a developing dark side to the 42-year-old former elementary school aide's personality.

Relatives, co-workers and neighbors said bouts of depression and anger following her divorce from Chad Hebert in April 2006, that transformed into outward displays of defiance and hostility when she received news her ex-husband planned to re-marry.

Amy Hebert has entered dual pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her 9-year-old daughter Camille and 7-year-old son Braxton. If the jury of 10 women and two men convicts her, she could be sentenced to die.

The ex-husband's testimony followed questioning of Susan Garcia, a Jefferson Parish forensic pathologist, who said both children frantically tried to fend off their mother's attacks, suffering defensive wounds on both their arms as a result.

When Garcia declared that Braxton had more than 50 to 55 stab wounds on his back Amy Hebert wept and blurted out a loud "oh God," prompting Barbera to call a recess.

Many of the wounds on the boy's back had gone straight through his chest and back due to his tiny frame, Garcia noted.

Camille had between 30 and 35 stab wounds to her chest and another 30 on her scalp, which were only discovered after her head was shaved, Garcia said.

Chad Hebert covered his face with his right hand and sobbed as details of the children's deaths were revealed.

He took the stand after the lunch break.

Chad Hebert told jurors he was scheduled to see his children at 5 p.m. the day they died.

They were helping him design parts of the new house he hoped to build, as soon as he married Kimberly Mendoza in 2008.

The couple has since married. What he described as an amicable relationship was maintained with Amy but the new relationship changed that.

He told jurors his ex-wife's behavior toward him led him to keep notes on incidents where she either harassed him or failed to meet terms of their custody agreement. One such entry recalled Amy Hebert bringing the children one hour and 43 minutes late for scheduled visitation.

Defense attorneys have characterized Hebert as a protective, God-fearing mother with a history of depression and seizures who acted upon an imagined male voice's whispered urgings to kill her children before her ex-husband could take them away. The voice also told Hebert to kill herself. Despite 30 stab wounds to her wrists, chest and eyes she lived, her defense team said.

Chad Hebert had no plans to seek full custody of the children, attorneys said, pointing out how illogical her reason for killing the children was.

Multiple witnesses recalled Hebert being in a depressed mood the weekend before her children died.

However, she was able to formulate clear thoughts, they said.

The divorce drastically changed the relationship between the defendant and her former mother-in-law, Judy Hebert, according to her testimony.

"She was like my daughter," a teary-eyed Judy Hebert said of the defendant. Following the divorce, Judy Hebert took her to a treatment program for depression at Nicholls State.

Once her son started dating a new woman, Judy Hebert noticed her relationship with her former daughter-in-law became non -existent.

"I told her if she wouldn't get over her anger and hostility she wouldn't be blessed with happiness," Judy Hebert said, noting that her former daughter-in-law ignored her when she spoke.

The day before her grandchildren died, Judy Hebert saw them at Pizza Hut. She expected a warm greeting, but was disheartened when only Braxton gave her a hug.

"I could tell something wasn't right when she couldn't speak to me," Judy Hebert said of her granddaughter Camille. "I kissed her and walked away."

District Attorney Cam Morvant II called a pair of teachers from Lockport Lower Elementary School to testify back-to-back.

The two women, Gena Adams and Shelly Matherne, were the first people to arrive at Amy Hebert's home the morning of the slayings.

Both testified to speaking frequently with Hebert about her deteriorating relationship with her ex-husband and her desire to have him return.

Adams called Hebert two days before the incident occurred to ask if she wanted any cabbage casserole. Hebert refused.

"She told me she was fasting to get all the impurities out of her system," Adams said.

Hebert called Matherne in tears the same day, Matherne said.

"She told me she was struggling with her thoughts," Matherne said. Matherne did not ask for clarification because she believed Hebert was speaking about her ex-husband.

Matherne advised Hebert happy music would heal her sorrows.

The next day when the two saw each other at Victory Life Church in Lockport, where Hebert was a Sunday school teacher, the defendant's only words to Matherne were, "I couldn't do it."

Matherne assumed she was speaking about music, and went about her day.

After leaving church, Hebert went home and visited her close friend, Mary Morris, across the street to see the renovations her husband did on their kitchen.

Hebert's children grabbed M&M's from Morris' candy jar on her kitchen counter, then went play in her yard as the two women talked.

Morris said it was clear she had changed since the divorce.

"She was a lot sadder and she didn't communicate with people the same," Morris said. This didn't reflect on how she dealt with her children, Morris added, explaining that she often saw Braxton sitting in his mother's lap while she cut grass on a riding lawnmower.

"To me she was exemplary," Morris said. "She was a wonderful mother ... She was well-versed in the Bible and taught them what it meant to be good children."


Coroner: Hebert children stabbed more than 30 times

By Sophia Ruffin -

May 5, 2009

A Jefferson Parish assistant coroner told jurors Tuesday that Amy Hebert stabbed her children more than 30 times each, including four times in the heart.

Hebert is being tried in District Judge Jerome Barbera's courtroom for two counts of first-degree murder in the Aug. 20, 2007, deaths of her children, Camille, 9 and Braxton, 7. She has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.

After Monday's opening statements, Lafourche Parish District Attorney Cam Morvant II called four witnesses to the stand: Hebert's former father-in-law, who was the first person to enter the home, and the Lafourche sheriff's deputies who responded to a 911 call placed by Hebert's ex-husband.

Testimony Tuesday continued with Dr. Susan Garcia, the Lafourche Parish assistant coroner who conducted autopsies on the bodies of Camille and Braxton, taking the stand.

Garcia told jurors that Camille was stabbed 30 to 35 times in the skull and 30 to 35 times on the front and back of her body. She said none of the head wounds punctured the skull.

"All of her vital organs had been nicked with the knife at least once," Garcia said.

Braxton had 30 to 35 stab wounds on the front of his body and 50 to 55 on his back, she testified.

Both children were stabbed four times in the heart.

Because of the children's size, Garcia said the knife could have penetrated out of the back of their bodies, creating puncture wounds on both sides.

Both children had four defensive wounds on their right hand and arm and five on their left, according to Garcia.

As Garcia detailed the fatal wounds, Hebert, who had sat stoically through most of the morning's testimony, began sobbing uncontrollably. Barbera called a brief recess to allow her to regain control of her emotions.

Garcia's testimony was followed by three forensic scientists with the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab in Baton Rouge.

Fingerprint and palm print expert Kasey Ferrera verified fingerprints were found on a notebook and three knives. She turned the items over to print examination and analysis expert Rebecca Alexander, who said she retrieved Hebert's right and left thumb, right middle finger and right palm prints.

DNA analysis expert Stacy Williams testified that the 54 pieces of evidence she examined all had blood belonging to Hebert or the children.


Court records paint grisly crime scene

Raymond Legendre -

April 2, 2008

THIBODAUX -- In the days after they discovered a wounded Amy Hebert in bed with the bodies of her two children, authorities say they recovered a slew of evidence, much of it from the family’s south Lafourche home.

Among the items is a tape recording of Hebert’s confession, bloody knives, several Bibles and a dead dog, according to court documents.

Defense lawyers want to bar those items and other pieces of evidence from the case, alleging that they were not properly seized.

They will clash on the issue with prosecutors before a district court judge in a hearing scheduled for July.

The court file’s inventory of evidence -- and other information -- provide details not previously discussed publicly.

Investigators recovered 152 pieces of evidence -- 24 blacked out in court records -- and took 59 blood swabs from Hebert’s 118 St. Anthony St. home on the day police say she stabbed the children and then attempted to take her own life.

Court papers say it was her ex-husband, Chad Hebert, who called 911 at 9:23 a.m. Aug. 20.

Records of Hebert’s subsequent stay at Oschner St. Anne Hospital in Raceland, also in the court file, quote physician Mark Hebert as saying she came within an hour or two of death herself, due to cuts inflicted on her chest, neck and wrists.

Defense attorney Richard Goorley, director of the Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana in Shreveport, also seeks to bar a statement Hebert gave to investigators on Aug. 21, while she was in the hospital ICU on no less than 10 pain medications.

He argues the statement Hebert gave Lt. Chad Shelby and Baron Cortopassi, both detectives, was not freely and voluntarily given, due to her physical and mental condition at the time.

Goorley wrote in a March memorandum that the Sheriff’s Office violated Hebert’s fourth-amendment rights by not obtaining the proper search warrants over the 16 days that they seized evidence from Hebert’s one-story, brick house.

Court papers document the list of warrants the Lafourche Sheriff’s Office’s received Aug. 20 in connection with Hebert, such as those obtained for her home-phone records for the week leading up to her children’s death, access to her computer files and samples of her blood.

Goorley does not mention these warrants in his memorandum. He maintains, instead, that investigators did not have the circumstances necessary to remove materials without a warrant, such as degree of urgency, reasonable belief the evidence would be destroyed and an indication those in possession of evidence are aware police are on their trail.

Hebert, as Goorley pointed out, was clinging to life in the hospital, and, therefore, not a risk to evidence.

Goorley added that investigators had the right to check to see if anyone needed further assistance or look for a perpetrator, but they needed a warrant beyond that. They could not have known most of the items they seized, such as notes, open books and Hebert’s Hewlett Packard desktop computer, were connected to the children’s death, without closer inspection, Goorley noted.

One exception, he said, concerns the allegedly bloody knives police found in bed with Hebert. In all, 11 knives were removed as evidence, including four that possibly had blood on them and several more with bent edges.


Lafourche mother kills her children

By Brian Fontenot -

August 21, 2007

Amy Hebert, 40, allegedly stabbed her two children to death Monday morning in a neighborhood one police officer described as being a great place to see Christmas lights.

"This is an incomprehensible tragedy that is unprecedented in our area," said Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre.

Concerned when Hebert didn't show up for work, a co-worker dropped by Hebert's house at 118 St. Anthony Street in Mathews, a home in sight of Central Lafourche High School's stadium lights, which tower above a field of green sugarcane.

Her vehicle was parked in her carport and the doors were locked from the inside, but no one answered the door. The co-worker then contacted an unnamed family member, who lived nearby.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m., the family member contacted the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office, concerned after not seeing activity at the home and believing the children had not made it to school.

An off-duty deputy arrived on the scene first. The family member and the deputy broke into the home through a back window, Webre said.

Once inside, the off-duty deputy quickly identified the area as a crime scene and removed the family member. Other deputies arrived and secured the scene.

Deputies discovered Hebert, conscious, under the covers in her bed with her two children, Braxton, 7, and Camille, 9.

Several kitchen knives were discovered in the area of the bedroom, Webre said.

"I don't know if one or more knives were used," he noted.

Deputies determined the children were deceased, appearing to have died from stab wounds. The official cause of death will be determined by autopsies.

Hebert sustained allegedly self-inflicted knife wounds to her wrists, neck, chest and abdomen, but survived.

Webre reported she didn't say anything to the officers related to the homicide, but did not expand on what she did say to the deputies.

Hebert was secured and taken to the Ochsner St. Anne Hospital by ambulance.

Hebert remains unresponsive in the Intensive Care Unit. Webre described her condition as "touch and go" as of press time Monday.

The last reported contact with Hebert and her children before the incident was around 7 p.m. Sunday, the night before the murders. She and her children were seen speaking to a neighbor.

The family and friends of Hebert described her as being depressed, but never imagining she would be capable of such an act.

"In speaking to friends and neighbors, there was absolutely no indication that Hebert was capable of such an act," Webre said. "All indications are that Hebert was a caring mother devoted to her children. Nevertheless, all of the evidence indicates that Amy Hebert killed her two children and, if she survives, she will be charged with two counts of first-degree murder."

Webre said Hebert is the suspect based upon the fact the doors were locked from the inside and other indications at the scene the crime could only have been committed by one person.

The sheriff refrained from giving details, citing the potential prosecution of Hebert.

The father of the two children has been divorced from Hebert for over a year, but they shared custody of the children.

Webre said there was no indication Hebert had any history with law enforcement at all.

She worked as a para-professional at a local elementary school and was described by those who knew her as being very active in her church. And she was local to Lafourche Parish, having lived in Thibodaux at one point.

The sheriff's office contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Behavioral Crime Unit for assistance in investigating the murders, Webre said.

"As of now, based on the people we've talked to, we've not developed a specific motive and may never, but it's going to be a long laborious process," he added.

Webre said he was surprised to learn the FBI has at least 190 documented cases of parental/child homicide.


State of Louisiana
Court of Appeal - First Circuit

State of Louisiana V. Amy T. Hebert

2010-0305 (LA.APP. 1 CIR. 2/11/11)


The defendant, Amy T. Hebert, was charged by Lafourche Parish grand jury indictment with two counts of first degree murder, violations of La.Rev.Stat. Ann. § 14:30. The state gave notice of its intent to seek the death penalty. The defendant entered a plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity on both counts. A jury found the defendant guilty as charged. Defense motions for a new trial and for a post-verdict judgment of not guilty by reason of insanity were denied. During the penalty phase, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on either count. Thereafter, the defendant was sentenced on each count to life imprisonment without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The trial court expressly ordered that the sentences run consecutively, and the defendant was remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections. The defendant appeals, designating six assignments of error;

1. The trial court erred in denying the motion for post-verdict judgment of not guilty by reason of insanity.
2. The trial court erred in denying the motion for new trial.
3. The evidence was insufficient to support the jury's verdicts.
4. The trial court erred in limiting the presentation of a defense by not allowing Dr. Spitz to testify as an expert in
forensic pathology as to the defendant's state of mind, specifically her psychosis, as evidenced by his wound analysis
and the extreme overkill evident in this case.
5. The trial court erred in failing to grant the defense's motion for change of venue.
6. The trial court imposed an excessive sentence by making the life sentences consecutive.

For the following reasons, we affirm the convictions and sentences.


The defendant and Chad Hebert were married on August 9, 1991. In 1994, they moved to 118 St. Anthony Street, Mathews, Louisiana, the scene of the offenses. The victim Camille Catherine Hebert (Camille) was born to the couple on June 4, 1998, and the victim Braxton John Hebert (Braxton) was born to the couple on May 12, 2000. In July of 2005, the couple separated, and in April of 2006, they divorced. The defense did not dispute that on August 20, 2007, the defendant stabbed both children to death at the family home.

Braxton suffered approximately 20-25 stab wounds to his chest and approximately 50-55 stab wounds to his back. The number of wounds could not be determined exactly due to the presence of perforating wounds, i.e., wounds that went entirely through his body and exited on the other side. He also suffered five defensive wounds on his left arm and one or two defensive wounds on his right arm. Braxton bled to death.

Camille suffered approximately 30-35 stab wounds to her chest and approximately 30-35 stab wounds to her back. She also suffered perforating wounds. She had five defensive wounds on her left arm and nine defensive wounds on her right arm. She was stabbed in the scalp approximately 30 times. Camille also bled to death.

The children's paternal grandparents, R.J. "Buck" and Judy Hebert, lived across the street. On the day of the offenses, Buck became concerned for the welfare of the defendant and his grandchildren. He knocked on the defendant's front door, and when no one answered, he broke into the utility room of the home by climbing through a window. Buck saw blood splattered on the floor of the kitchen/dining area. In the master bedroom, he saw a large quantity of blood and the defendant lying in bed with the children. Buck tried to exit the house to summon help, but the doors had been dead-bolted from the inside, and he could not find the keys.

Upon arrival, the police broke the kitchen door down and entered the house. When the police entered the master bedroom, the defendant lifted a large knife in her right hand and shouted, "Get the f — out." The police used a Taser electroshock weapon to force the defendant to drop her knife so that they could attempt a rescue of the children. After removing the children from the bed, the police discovered multiple knives in the bed, as well as a dead dog. The police also discovered two notes at the residence.

The first note states:

Monday 8-20-07 Chad,
You wanted your own life. You got it. I'll be damned if you get the kids, too.
Your ambition greed for money won out over your love for your family.
The hell you put us through I do mean all of us because you don't know what the kids used to go through because of course you weren't here.
This is no kind of life for them to live.
I sure hope you two lying alduttering (sic) home wrecking whores can have more kids because you can't have these.
Actually I hope you can't because then you'll only produce more lying homewrecking adultering (sic) whores like yourselves.
Maybe you can buy some with all of your money you will make from this house the life insurance benefits you'll get from the kids.

The second note states:

Monday 8-20-07 Judy,
You run from the very thing you support!
Monica pairs up with a married man, becomes a kept woman your response is maybe she is in love with him — so that makes it okay? How stupid! Your sons have affairs bring these whores home you welcome them all in. I guess its okay for them to hurt the family as long as it is not you.
Well when you started delivering my kids to that whore, Kimberly, that was the last straw!
To all my friends thanks for all the help support you tried to give me.
1 love you all,
Sorry Daddy, Celeste Renee I love you all too.

The defendant was taken to the emergency room for treatment of her injuries. The defendant's wrists were severed, exposing tendons; both of her lungs were collapsed from stab wounds to her chest; and she had stab wounds on her skull and neck and wounds to her eyelids.


The defendant combines her first three assignments of error for argument. She argues the evidence was insufficient to convict her because the preponderance of the evidence established she was insane at the time of the offenses. The defendant maintains she proved she was psychotic at the time of the offenses, and Doctors Salcedo and Seiden were unable to rebut her proof.

Insanity at the time of the offense requires a showing that because of mental disease or mental defect the offender was incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong with reference to the conduct in question. See La.Rev.Stat. Ann. § 14:14. The law presumes a defendant is sane and responsible for her actions. La.Rev.Stat. Ann. § 15:432. The defendant has the burden of establishing the defense of insanity at the time of the offense by a preponderance of the evidence. La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 652. The State is not required to offer any proof of the defendant's sanity or to offer evidence to rebut the defendant's evidence. State v. Thames, 95-2105 (La. App. 1 Cir. 9/27/96); 681 So. 2d 480, 486, writ denied, 96-2563 (La. 3/21/97); 691 So. 2d 80. Instead, the determination of whether the defendant's evidence successfully rebuts the presumption of sanity is made by the trier of fact viewing all of the evidence, including lay and expert testimony, the conduct of the defendant, and the defendant's actions in committing the particular crime. Thames, 681 So. 2d at 486. The issue of insanity is a factual question for the jury to decide. Thames, 681 So. 2d at 486. Lay testimony concerning a defendant's actions, both before and after the crime, may provide the jury with a rational basis for rejecting even a unanimous medical opinion that a defendant was legally insane at the time of the offense. Thames, 681 So. 2d at 486. Louisiana does not recognize the defense of diminished capacity. State v. Pitre, 04-0545 (La. App. 1 Cir. 12/17/04); 901 So. 2d 428, 444, writ denied, 05-0397 (La. 5/13/05); 902 So. 2d 1018. A mental disease or defect short of insanity cannot serve to negate an element of the crime. Pitre, 901 So. 2d at 444.

In reviewing a claim of insufficiency of the evidence in regard to a defense of insanity, we must apply the test set forth in Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979) to determine whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the defendant had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that she was insane at the time of the offense. Thames, 681 So. 2d at 486.

Defense witness Dr. Alexandra Phillips testified as both a fact witness and as a court-accepted expert in psychiatry. Dr. Phillips was the attending physician for the acute psychiatric unit when the defendant was brought to the hospital. She attempted to talk with the defendant on August 21, 2007, the day after the offense, but the defendant was unresponsive. Dr. Phillips again met with the defendant on August 23, 2007. The nurses were concerned because the defendant was not eating; the defendant told Dr. Phillips she was not eating because she was afraid of getting sick and vomiting. The defendant advised Dr. Phillips that she had heard the words of Satan for a long time and had pushed them away with the words of Christ and prayer. The defendant said she had not been planning on killing herself, but Satan took over, and she snapped. Dr. Phillips asked the defendant if she was hearing the voice of Satan at that moment, and the defendant stated Satan was in the room laughing at her. Dr. Phillips observed the defendant's eyes tracking the room. Dr. Phillips's attempts to redirect or calm the defendant were unsuccessful, and the defendant began to scream. Dr. Phillips concluded the defendant was completely psychotic and responding to internal stimuli so anti-psychotic medication was prescribed.

The court accepted defense witness Dr. Phillip Resnick as an expert in psychiatry. Dr. Resnick examined the defendant on August 6, 2008. The defendant told Dr. Resnick that in the summer of 2007 she was depressed, had lost weight, and did not have a good appetite. She was having trouble sleeping and lost interest in things. She felt fatigued and worthless. The defendant indicated she had trouble concentrating and remembering things and had thoughts of suicide.

Dr. Resnick defined "psychosis" as being out of touch with reality. In his opinion, on the day of the offenses, the defendant suffered an auditory hallucination. The defendant said she heard a forceful male voice telling her that her ex -husband was going to take away her children, that she had to keep the family together, and that the family had to die to stay together. The defendant told Dr. Resnick that the voice instructed her to stab her children and to kill herself, and after she killed the victims, the voice dictated the notes she left at the scene. Dr. Resnick noted the defendant told Dr. Phillips that she heard Satan laughing at her. According to Dr. Resnick, the defendant was having auditory hallucinations when she heard the voice of Satan. Dr. Resnick maintained it was not surprising that the defendant's hallucination at the time of the offenses reflected her concerns that her children were getting close to her ex-husband's fiancée, that he was building a new house, and that she might lose custody of them. The defendant advised Dr. Resnick that when she stabbed Camille, Camille said, "Mommy, I love you. I don't want to die," and the defendant told her, "I love you, but I don't want daddy to take you away."

Dr. Resnick concluded that on the day of the offenses the defendant was suffering from major depression and killed her children because she was psychotic. In his opinion, with reasonable medical certainty, due to severe psychotic depression, distorted mind, delusions, and hallucinations, the defendant could not distinguish whether stabbing her children was right or wrong because she believed it was in their best interests. He conceded, however, that he had seen no evidence the defendant had been diagnosed as psychotic prior to the offenses, including when she saw a neurosurgeon and physical therapists in August 2007. He also conceded that Dr. Phillips's conclusion that the defendant was suffering from psychosis beginning long before Dr. Phillips saw her was unsupported by the evidence.

The defense also presented testimony at trial from Dr. Glenn Wolfner Ahava, who was accepted by the court as an expert in forensic psychology. He became involved in the case in January of 2008 and interviewed the defendant four times between March 28, 2008, and August 11, 2008. Dr. Ahava did not think the defendant was malingering. He diagnosed the defendant as suffering from major depressive disorder that was severe, recurrent, and with psychotic features. In his opinion, on the day of the offenses, it was more likely than not that the defendant could not distinguish right from wrong with respect to her criminal conduct. The defendant, a religious woman, had a delusional belief consistent with depression that God was speaking to her and commanding her. According to the defendant, on the day of the offenses, God spoke to her and told her "he" was going to take the children away, and she had to kill the children and herself to keep the family together so that they could go to heaven. The defendant advised Dr. Ahava that the voice told her to stab the victims in the head. The defendant told Dr. Ahava that as she stabbed the victims, she told them she loved them, but she could not let their father take them. The defendant explained that the voice told her to kill the family dog and, then, to make coffee to stay awake to write the notes. The defendant told Dr. Ahava she hesitated twice before stabbing the victims, but the voice told her to practice on a bed.

Dr. Ahava testified that the defendant, who was forty-one years old when he saw her, reported a history of mental health issues dating back to her early twenties. He conceded, however, there were no medical records to support her claim. The defendant told him she had heard voices prior to the date of the offenses; however, she had not made that claim to any of the other doctors who had interviewed her. According to Dr. Ahava, the number of stab wounds inflicted on the victims indicated the defendant was obviously psychotic.

Dr, David Self testified as an expert in forensic psychiatry. Dr. Self interviewed the defendant on July 16, 2008, and August 14, 2008. He diagnosed her as suffering from major depression that was recurrent and severe with psychosis. He indicated with reasonable psychiatric certainty that due to mental disease the defendant was incapable of distinguishing the wrongfulness of her conduct in killing the victims. The defendant advised Dr. Self that she suffered from symptoms of major depression following the birth of Braxton, and her depression became much worse when her husband announced his intent to separate from her. Dr. Self testified that the likelihood of a person suffering from mental illness increased if other family members suffered from mental illness. The defendant's sister had a psychotic breakdown in her teens; the defendant's uncle had been diagnosed with schizophrenia; and the defendant's maternal grandfather had committed suicide. The defendant told Dr. Self that on the day of the offenses she heard a male voice taunting her, "He's going to take the children. He's going to take them." According to the defendant, the voice told her she had to keep the family together by killing the children and then herself, and to stab the brains of the children. Dr. Self, reflecting on the defendant's self-inflicted wounds, stated that only the most psychotic people attack their own eyes.

The State presented testimony at trial from Dr. Rafael Salcedo, a court accepted expert in clinical and forensic psychology. He interviewed the defendant on April 28, 2008. In Dr. Salcedo's opinion and within a reasonable degree of psychological certainty, at the time of the offenses, although the defendant was suffering from a psychotic disorder (major depression), the disorder did not rise to the level that it impaired her ability to distinguish right from wrong. Stated differently, the defendant was capable of distinguishing right from wrong when she murdered her children.

Dr. Salcedo delineated numerous sources of stress in the defendant's life from 2006 until the date of the offenses. The defendant's husband, Chad, had moved out and ultimately divorced her. The defendant did not want the divorce. The defendant was a single mom, and Braxton suffered from Asperger's disorder, a mild form of autism. The defendant was very angry with her ex-husband and that anger intensified when she learned that he was involved with Kimberly. Moreover, the children were excited that Chad and Kimberly were building a house. Camille was becoming attached to Kimberly; the defendant had seen Camille at a ball game holding hands with, or sitting next to, Kimberly. Camille was excited about being a flower girl at Chad and Kimberly's wedding. The defendant also was upset by Chad's mother, Judy, encouraging a relationship between Braxton, Camille, and Kimberly.

Dr. Salcedo testified that psychosis builds up over time. A delusion that lasts four hours — beginning suddenly without any evidence of delusional thinking and ending after being shocked by a Taser — would be very unusual. Dr. Salcedo pointed out that the defendant first claimed she was acting at the direction of God and later at the direction of Satan. Moreover, the defendant's note to Chad did not appear to be written by someone who was psychotic. Dr. Salcedo explained:

It is logical. The content is consistent with the circumstances that were found to be in evidence later on. It shows no evidence of loosening of associations. See, one of the things that I didn't mention is that psychosis is not just hallucinations and so called delusions. Usually, a psychotic individual also displays disorganized thinking, loosening of associations, you know, they go off on tangents. You ask them one question, they come back with something else. You know, it incorporates what we call cognitive distortions, cognitive disorders. That's a very well-written, well-organized, thought-out letter.

Dr. Salcedo stated the defendant's statement in the note, "You wanted your own life. You got it. I'll be damned if you get the kids, too," presented a plausible motive for the behavior she manifested. When the defendant wrote, "I sure hope you two lying alduttering (sic) home wrecking whores can have more kids because you can't have these," she was telling Chad that she was getting ready to kill, or had already killed, the children, and he was not going to have them. Dr. Salcedo also remarked the note showed no evidence of delusional ideation; specifically, the note did not refer to heaven or being together.

Dr. Salcedo also discussed the defendant's note to her ex-mother-in-law, Judy. The defendant's statement, "Well when you started delivering my kids to that whore, Kimberly, that was the last straw!" was consistent with Judy supporting Kimberly developing a close relationship with Camille and Braxton. The defendant had a huge amount of anger at her mother-in-law and had not let Camille and Braxton visit Judy's house, which was across the street from her own house, since June of 2007. Dr. Salcedo concluded his analysis of the notes by stating:

Well, what you have here is something that I've never had in the numerous not guilty by reason of insanity cases that I've been involved with and, that is, you have an authored description written by the defendant of her mental state at the time.

Sometimes you have observers. Sometimes you have a video camera. Sometimes you have witnesses. But rarely are you able to get inside the mind of the defendant in such close proximity to the time of the commission of the alleged offense. It's almost like having a videotape of her thought processes at the time. That's what's remarkable about this case.

And I would add that there's no mention of psychosis or delusions or, you know, nothing psychotic in the notes themselves, as opposed to what she self-reported.

Dr. Salcedo indicated in a retribution killing of children, also known as a spousal revenge killing of children, the woman who kills her children loves them but that love is overridden by her hatred for her spouse. It is typical in such a killing to leave behind a note to inflict cruelty on the other spouse.

Dr. Salcedo testified that people who are depressed often commit suicide. A suicidal mother may be very concerned about what will happen to her children after the parent kills herself and, therefore, may decide to kill the children too. Given the defendant's religious belief that heaven was a better place — which he noted was not a delusion but, rather, a belief shared by many people from her church — and her anger toward Chad, she decided to kill her children and herself.

In Dr. Salcedo's opinion, Dr. Phillips did not have enough information to render an accurate diagnosis. Dr. Phillips's final diagnosis of the defendant was "psychosis NOS," which means "not otherwise specified," or the diagnosis does not fit in any category of psychosis. Dr. Salcedo opined that Dr. Phillips did not have any background information on the defendant and assumed the defendant was crazy because she talked about Satan and God and seemed to be hyper-religious.

State witness Dr. George Seiden was accepted by the court as an expert in general and forensic psychiatry. He interviewed the defendant on March 24, 2009. Dr. Seiden stated that, although the defendant was suffering from a depressive episode, on the day of the offenses, she was capable of distinguishing right from wrong in connection with the killings of the victims.

Dr. Seiden found no evidence in the defendant's medical records that she had exhibited any psychotic features prior to the day of the offenses. He pointed out that on August 16, 2007, on a "Functional Health Intake Summary" for a physical therapist, the defendant indicated she could fully concentrate.

The defendant told Dr. Seiden that a voice had commanded her to kill her children. She also told him she attempted to stab one of the children, left, and then came back. The defendant explained she hesitated because she "could not hurt her babies." According to Dr. Seiden, the defendant's statement indicated she knew she was going to hurt her children.

Dr. Seiden found nothing in the defendant's note to Chad that indicated she was in a psychotic state when it was written. He found no evidence of the psychotic disorganization of thought that is seen in a true psychosis. To the contrary, Dr. Seiden felt the note indicated the defendant was not psychotic at the time it was written. The defendant's statement in her note, "Sorry Daddy, Celeste Renee I love you all too," was significant in that it was a statement acknowledging she had done something wrong. Dr. Seiden defined a delusion as a fixed false belief that cannot be changed with any amount of information and that is not consistent with the culture. Herein, there was no delusion but, rather, the defendant's fear of losing her children either through formal legal means or through the loss of their love.

In thirty years of practice, Dr. Seiden had never seen or read about a psychotic disorder that began and ended suddenly. Psychoses gradually develop and gradually ebb. Dr. Seiden concluded that Dr. Phillips was mistaken in her diagnosis of the defendant on August 23, 2007, because Dr. Phillips did not view the defendant's claim of Satan being in the room and laughing at her within the context of the defendant's religious beliefs — that Satan is a real and tangible entity.

After a thorough review of the record, we are convinced any rational trier of fact could have found the defendant failed to rebut her presumed sanity at the time of the offenses. The verdicts returned in this case indicate the jury credited the testimony of the witnesses presented by the State and rejected the testimony of the witnesses presented by the defense. As the trier of fact, the jury was free to accept or reject, in whole or in part, the testimony of any witness. State v. Johnson, 99-0385 (La. App. 1 Cir. 11/5/99); 745 So. 2d 217, 223, writ denied, 00-0829 (La. 11/13/00); 774 So. 2d 971. On appeal, this court will not assess the credibility of witnesses or reweigh the evidence to overturn a fact finder's determination of guilt. State v. Glynn, 94-0332 (La. App. 1 Cir. 4/7/95); 653 So. 2d 1288, 1310, writ denied, 95-1153 (La. 10/6/95); 661 So. 2d 464. Further, in reviewing the evidence, the jury's determination was not irrational under the facts and circumstances presented. See State v. Ordodi, 06-0207 (La. 11/29/06); 946 So. 2d 654, 662. An appellate court errs by substituting its appreciation of the evidence and credibility of witnesses for that of the fact finder and thereby overturning a verdict on the basis of an exculpatory hypothesis of innocence presented to, and rationally rejected by, the jury. State v. Calloway, 07-2306 (La. 1/21/09); 1 So. 3d 417, 418 ( per curiam).

These assignments of error are without merit.


Defense witness Dr. Daniel Spitz was accepted by the court as an expert in forensic, anatomic, and clinical pathology. In assignment of error number 4, the defendant argues the trial court violated her right to present a defense by refusing to allow Dr. Spitz to render an opinion on the defendant's state of mind at the time of the offenses based on analysis of the victims' wounds.

The Louisiana Code of Evidence provides for the admission of opinion testimony by experts. If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise. La. Code Evid. Ann. art. 702.

Dr. Spitz testified that he had reviewed the autopsy reports, a sheriffs office report, photographs of the autopsies and the crime scene, medical records, and reports of other doctors. During Dr. Spitz's testimony, the State approached the bench and advised the court that in one of his reports, Dr. Spitz had written, "The nature of this homicidal violence towards both children together with the presence of extreme overkill is most indicative of an assailant who is suffering from severe psychiatric illness such as an acute psychosis." The State objected to Dr. Spitz testifying about the defendant's mental state because he had not been qualified as an expert in any area involving mental health, and no evidence had been presented that he had ever treated anyone with a psychiatric condition or ever rendered a diagnosis in the field of mental health. The defense responded that Dr. Spitz had provided similar testimony in the past and one need not be a psychiatrist to testify about the defendant's mental state.

The court explained it was usual for a pathologist to testify about the wounds to a victim, the type of weapon used, the angle of entry of the weapon, the force used, and the violent nature of the act based on the wounds, but diagnosis of the mental state of the person inflicting the wounds was "a far stretch." The court ruled testimony from Dr. Spitz relating wound analysis to the state of mind of the defendant or to a medical diagnosis, such as acute psychosis of the defendant, was outside of his expertise. The defense objected to the court's ruling and supplemented the record with testimony from Dr. Spitz. See La. Code Evid. Ann. art. 103.

Outside the presence of the jury, Dr. Spitz indicated he had examined the wounds to both victims in accordance with the procedures and methodologies from his training as a forensic pathologist. The defense then asked Dr. Spitz if the wound pattern was consistent with the defendant suffering from severe psychiatric illness, such as acute psychosis. Dr. Spitz replied:

It would be. The extreme overkill is the wound pattern that's being analyzed. And if you — in certain cases, when the wound pattern is so unusual, it can be used as an indicator for the state of mind of the assailant.

And in this case the extreme overkill, the excessive wounding of both child victims, as well as the family dog, was indicative of an individual who was suffering a severe psychiatric illness. In other words, this was well outside the typical — what is typically expected with the overwhelming majority of homicides. And when you have homicides that involve young children where the mother is the believed assailant and you have extreme overkill, you're really down to a very limited number of situations that can account for it as far as the state of mind of the assailant.

And I'm not here to analyze the assailant in terms of a psychiatric approach. This is the — this is a wound analysis to help identify what might be going on with the assailant. As far as the wounds go, there is [sic] a limited number of possibilities.

In response to questioning by the defense, Dr. Spitz answered affirmatively when asked if he had "done this on prior occasions," and if this would fall within the realm of wound analysis and is part of the field of forensic pathology.

When again in the presence of the jury, Dr. Spitz testified that the photographs of the victims and the family dog showed a similar wounding pattern; "extensive injury, extreme overkill, unnecessary wounding in order to cause death, a very extreme nature of the injuries." The defense then asked Dr. Spitz to define "overkill" as it was used in his profession. Dr. Spitz replied, "Overkill is something that I see fairly infrequently. In fact, it's infrequent to say the least. And what it is is extreme wounding, wounding that is far beyond what is necessary to result in somebody's death, wounding that is so extreme that it raises a variety of questions."

We conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the supplemental testimony of Dr. Spitz. The defendant's mental condition at the time of the offenses was outside of the scope of Dr. Spitz's expertise. Further, although neither the State nor the defense referenced Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), under that decision, trial courts must exercise a gatekeeping function to ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant but also reliable. The defense failed to establish the reliability of its theory that wound analysis can be used to determine whether an assailant was suffering from psychosis. Moreover, the defense presented its theory that the defendant was suffering from psychosis at the time of the offenses through numerous other experts at trial.

The gatekeeping duty imposed upon trial courts in Daubert with regard to scientific testimony applies to all expert testimony. Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147 (1999).

This assignment of error is without merit.


In assignment of error number 5, the defendant argues the trial court erred in denying the motion for change of venue because a jury composed of fair and impartial jurors could not be secured in Lafourche Parish. She relies on the testimony of Elliot Stonecipher, an expert in public research, and claims nearly all of the prospective jurors had heard of the case from the media and/or talked about it with family and friends.

Each person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty and is entitled to a speedy, public, and impartial trial in the parish where the offense or an element of the offense occurred, unless venue is changed in accordance with law. La.Const. Ann. art. I, § 16. Concurrent with that right, the law provides for a change of venue when a defendant establishes she will be unable to obtain an impartial jury or a fair trial at the place of original venue. State v. Lee, 05-2098 (La. 1/16/08); 976 So. 2d 109, 132, cert denied, ___U.S. (2008).

Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Annotated article 622 provides:

A change of venue shall be granted when the applicant proves that by reason of prejudice existing in the public mind or because of undue influence, or that for any other reason, a fair and impartial trial cannot be obtained in the parish where the prosecution is pending.

In deciding whether to grant a change of venue the court shall consider whether the prejudice, the influence, or the other reasons are such that they will affect the answers of jurors on the voir dire examination or the testimony of witnesses at the trial.

In unusual circumstances, prejudice against the defendant may be presumed. See State v. David, 425 So. 2d 1241, 1246 (La. 1983) ("[U]nfairness of a constitutional magnitude will be presumed in the presence of a trial atmosphere which is utterly corrupted by press coverage or which is entirely lacking in the solemnity and sobriety to which a defendant is entitled in a system that subscribes to any notion of fairness and rejects the verdict of the mob."). Otherwise, the defendant bears the burden of showing actual prejudice. Lee, 976 So. 2d at 132.

A defendant must prove more than mere general public knowledge or familiarity with the facts of the case to have her trial moved to another parish. Lee, 976 So. 2d at 133. A defendant is not entitled to a jury entirely ignorant of her case and cannot prevail on a motion for change of venue merely by showing a general level of public awareness about the crime. Lee, 976 So. 2d at 133. However, courts must differentiate largely factual publicity from that which is invidious or inflammatory because they present real differences in the potential for prejudice. Lee, 976 So. 2d at 133.

Whether a defendant has made the requisite showing of actual prejudice is a question addressed to the trial court's sound discretion, which will not be disturbed on appeal absent an affirmative showing of error and abuse. Lee, 976 So. 2d at 133. Several factors are pertinent in determining whether prejudice exists rendering a change in venue necessary, including: (1) the nature of pretrial publicity and the degree to which it has circulated in the community; (2) the connection of government officials with the release of the publicity; (3) the length of time between the dissemination of the publicity and the trial; (4) the severity and notoriety of the offense; (5) the area from which the jury is to be drawn; (6) other events occurring in the community that either affect or reflect the attitude of the community or individual jurors toward the defendant; and (7) any factors likely to affect the candor and veracity of the prospective jurors on voir dire. Lee, 976 So. 2d at 133.

Prior to trial, the defense moved for a change of venue, arguing the publicity this matter had received, the age of the two victims, their manner of death, and their relationship to the defendant, all supported an immediate change of venue. In the alternative, if the trial court should defer disposition of the motion until jury selection, the defense moved for individual, sequestered voir dire.

Defense expert Stonecipher testified at the hearing on the motion for change of venue. Stonecipher offered scientific evidence regarding prejudice in the minds of prospective jurors in the case. According to the United States census, as of 2006, the population of Lafourche Parish was 93,554, and as of July 15, 2008, voter registration was 56,233. In May of 2008, Stonecipher conducted a telephone poll of 406 Lafourche Parish registered voters concerning prejudice against the defendant in the public mind. Stonecipher claimed a 400-person sample yields data that is accurate within five percent, plus or minus, at the 95 percent confidence level. According to Stonecipher, 86 percent of the survey respondents knew of the case with no mention of names. Stonecipher indicated 25 percent of the survey respondents who had heard of the case were able to name the defendant. According to Stonecipher, 3 percent of respondents who had heard of the case felt strongly the defendant was innocent; 4 percent of respondents who had heard of the case leaned toward believing the defendant was innocent; 12 percent of respondents who had heard of the case leaned toward believing the defendant was guilty; and 46 percent of respondents who had heard of the case felt strongly the defendant was guilty.

Additionally, Stonecipher stated 31 percent of survey respondents who believed the defendant was guilty, or leaned toward believing the defendant was guilty, believed that if convicted she should be given the death penalty. Stonecipher concluded, "there is unquestionably a high degree of prejudice existing in the public mind of Lafourche Parish," and it would be impossible for the defendant to receive a trial by fair and impartial jurors in Lafourche Parish. On cross-examination, Stonecipher stated that approximately two-thirds (66 percent) of the population of the State of Louisiana believe in the death penalty.

The trial court denied the motion to change venue and in reasons explained:

The evidence of the publicity and the results of the poll, while it shows knowledge on the part of many, and a predisposition to vote guilty and impose the death penalty on the part of a significant number interviewed, does not satisfy the defendant's burden, that this community is so prejudiced, collectively, against her, that a jury cannot be selected from its citizens to afford her a fair and impartial trial.

The defendant requested supervisory relief from this court. State v. Hebert, 09-0039 (La. App. 1 Cir. 2/13/09) (unpublished). We denied the writ application, finding no abuse of the trial court's discretion in the application of the pertinent factors used to determine whether actual prejudice existed, and noting under the jurisprudence, a decision on a motion for change of venue could best be determined immediately before the trial date. We further stated, if during the completion of voir dire, the trial court found a fair and impartial jury could not be obtained because of prejudice, it could reconsider its ruling.

Jury selection began on April 16, 2009. The prospective jurors were divided into four groups, which were further divided into panels. Prospective jurors were questioned individually on three separate issues: sequestration, pre-trial publicity, and the death penalty. Many jurors expressed familiarity with the case from media reports. Others indicated having heard the case discussed amongst friends, family, or co-workers. Most recollections were of a mother who had killed her children and then tried to kill herself.

A thorough review of the record fails to reveal error or abuse of discretion in the denial of the motion to change venue. The defendant failed to establish actual prejudice by her trial being held in Lafourche Parish. At most, she established a general level of public awareness about the offenses. The television news stories, newspaper articles, and transcribed radio stories offered in support of the motion for change of venue spanned the period from August 20, 2007, through July 19, 2008. The presentation of evidence at trial began on May 4, 2009. Most of the media coverage was factual in nature, and no attempt was made to demonize the defendant. Many of the stories portrayed her in a positive manner, referring to the defendant as a good person and loving mother who was law abiding and active in her church. None of the media coverage referenced the notes the defendant left at the scene or her claim that Satan had spoken to her during the offenses. The local sheriff was referenced in some of the media reports, but the Lafourche Parish District Attorney's Office issued an official statement that it would not make any public statements regarding the case as long as it was pending.

Although the offenses were severe and notorious, the defense did not dispute the defendant had killed the victims. Thus, prior knowledge by prospective jurors of the fact that the defendant had killed the victims was much less significant than in a case where identity was at issue. See State v. Lee, 559 So. 2d 1310, 1313 (La. 1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 954 (1991) (no abuse of discretion in denying motion for change of venue where only penalty phase at issue, and thus, prior knowledge of basic facts "not nearly as significant as it might be").

We find no abuse of discretion in the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion for change of venue. This assignment of error is without merit.


In assignment of error number 6, the defendant argues the imposition of consecutive, rather than concurrent, life sentences was excessive. It is within sentencing court's discretion to order that sentences run consecutively, rather than concurrently. State v. Berry, 95 1610 (La. App. 1 Cir. 11/8/96); 684 So. 2d 439, 460, writ denied, 97-0278 (La. 10/10/97); 703 So. 2d 603. Prior to imposing sentences, the trial court heard argument from counsel regarding whether consecutive or concurrent life sentences were appropriate in this particular case. The trial court provided ample justification for its express imposition of consecutive sentences. The trial court properly reasoned that the two convictions involved two distinct and separate acts. The court stated that it had considered both La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. arts. 883 and 894.1 and listed particular factors to be considered: the victims, their perpetrator, and any past history of violence. The trial court described the present crimes as particularly vicious and heinous. The trial court concluded that imposition of anything other than concurrent sentences would deprecate the seriousness of the offenses.

The trial court expressly directed that the two first degree murder convictions were to run consecutively; thus, those sentences are outside the scope of La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 883, which provides the rule of construction when a court does not expressly direct whether sentences are to be served concurrently or consecutively. See State v. Palmer, 97-0174 (La. App. 1 Cir. 12/29/97); 706 So. 2d 156, 160.

While we acknowledge the defendant's status as a first felony offender, the reasons given by the trial court support the imposition of consecutive sentences. The defendant brutally killed her two helpless, young children; she is the worst kind of offender. Consecutive sentences are not necessarily excessive, and in this instance, the record amply supports the trial court's decision. See State v. Palmer, 97-0174 (La. App. 1 Cir. 12/29/97); 706 So. 2d 156, 160. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering that the sentences be served consecutively.




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