On the morning of January 26th, Elizabeth and Keith Theroit, both in their fifties, were fatally shot in their bed. Despite being mortally wounded and hemorrhaging blood at an alarming rate, Keith, a disabled veteran, managed to cling on to life just long enough to identify the perpetrator to police. He identified the assailant as their 21 year old son, Dakota Theriot.
Kim Mincks, who lived with the family in their trailer home in Gonzales (a small city in Ascension Parish, Louisiana) was sleeping when the double homicide occurred. She claims that she did not hear the gun shots as she was at the other side of the home but was eventually awoken by police who informed her that a crime had been committed and commanded her to get up, get dressed and get out. A picture published in theTimesunion shows a confused Mincks at the end of a bloody hallway turning back to look at the camera.
Elizabeth and Keith were not the only victims shot and killed by their son that day.
Across town in Walker, Livingston Parish, 43 year old Billy Ernest, his teenage son Tanner and 20 year old daughter, Summer were all found fatally shot in the family home. Two young children were in the house at the time of the murders but managed to escape to a neighbor’s home to seek help.
Media reports would later state that Dakota Theriot and Summer Ernest were dating. Summer’s sister told reporters that they had only been seeing each other for a short time before Dakota killed her in her own home. It is estimated that they were seeing each other for around 3 weeks before the incident and had met at a funeral. He had been invited to their home for a family party and quickly moved in with the Ernest family after being kicked out of his own home by his parents. According to various articles, Dakota and his father would have heated and often violent arguments. Kim Mincks added that Dakota had struggled with drug abuse and had a “violent streak” citing this as the main reason his parents kicked him out. He often physically attacked his own parents and Mincks recalled one incident where he had even held a gun to his mother’s head. She described Keith and Elizabeth as a happy couple who were both caring and generous but were at their wits end with their son’s behavior. The Ernest family took Dakota in, they were charitable people who liked to see the best in others and although they knew Dakota was a troubled young man, they believed they could help him. Summer's extended family had their own opinions on her relationship and told her that they were wary of her new boyfriend. A friend of Summer was also aware of Dakota’s troubling behavior and warned her friend to stay away. Summer, who was described as a selfless individual who once chose charity donations over birthday gifts resisted the advice and tried to see the good in what she likely believed was a young man she could steer in the right direction. Nobody imagined that the relationship would end in a murderous rampage.
Just after 8AM on the 26th, Dakota killed Summer along with her father and brother before heading straight for Gonzales in Billy Ernest's stolen silver Dodge pickup. By 8:43AM he had fatally shot both his parents in their bed and authorities were already aware of the triple homicide in Walker.
With the police on his tail he decided to skip town and began driving to his grandmother’s home over a thousand miles away in Warsaw, Virginia. Terrified that she would succumb to the same fate as Dakota’s parents, his grandmother checked into a nearby hotel that night and contacted the local police asking them if they could make sure the suspect was not at her home before she returned.
Police were already at the scene when the suspect arrived and said Dakota rolled up to his grandmother’s home pointing a gun at them from the window of the stolen vehicle. He was persuaded to give up the firearm, which he dropped, and was eventually apprehended and arrested.
Police do not yet know the motive for the murder but described the incidents as “one of the worst domestic violence incidents” they had seen in a long time.
Dakota Theriot is being held without bond at Northern Neck Regional Jail while he awaits a coming court date. He is expected to be transported to Ascension Parish where he will be processed for two counts of first-degree murder as well as the illegal use of a weapon and home invasion. He is also expected to be booked on another three counts of first-degree murder for the killings in Livingston as well as theft of a vehicle.
A gofundme set up for the funerals of Summer and Tanner Ernest is currently at $9000.
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