Laurent jury selected, trial begins

Published 2:22 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The murder trial of Leo Lucas Laurent began Monday at the Forrest County Courthouse in Hattiesburg.

The case was moved to Hattiesburg because of media coverage on the Gulf Coast.

Laurent, 33, is accused of killing his wife Brandi Hawkins Laurent at the couple’s rural Hancock County home on August 3, 2007.

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Her body was discovered 100 days later in a shallow grave about a half-mile from the couple’s home.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Fisher began opening statements by saying her husband, Leo Laurnet was the last person to see her alive.

“A search for Brandi would take months,” Fisher said. “At every turn the investigation was thwarted, and it is because of that man sitting right there,” Fisher said pointing at the defendant.

Laurent’s attorney Brian Alexander conceded that Leo was present when Brandi was killed, but said her death was an accident.

Alexander painted a picture of a domestic argument gone wrong, and a struggle for a gun which ended tragically.

“The state’s evidence will show you that they don’t know what they think they know,” Alexander told the jury.

Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy James Alphonso testified that he took a missing person’s report on August 5, 2007 from Leo Laurent.

Laurent told deputies his wife had left in the middle of the evening, wearing flip-flops, tan shorts, and a green shirt.

Sheriff’s Investigator Matthew Carver said a post made on the social network MySpace from Brandi’s profile was made after she was reported missing.

The post said that Brandi had allegedly run off to Missouri with another man.

The post was traced back to the Laurents’ home, but Carver said, Leo Laurent had denied having his wife’s password.

Mississippi Highway Patrol Investigator Joel Wallace testified that during the next three months, Laurent led law enforcement into many dead ends.

“Over and over again, we were checking out other people that Mr.Laurent had pointed out to us,” Wallace said. “Things were not adding up.”

Wallace said Laurent made several different statements to him and other law enforcement officers during the course of the investigation.

On January 7, 2008, Leo Laurent finally admitted to being involved in his wife’s death, Wallace said.

Wallace testified that after his wife’s death, Laurent told him he put her body in a trash can, loaded the body in the back of the family’s van, put his two-year-old daughter in the van, and drove off.

“He said he saw a tree through the moon-light and said “this would be a nice place for Brandi to be.”

Wallace said Laurent then said he kissed her goodbye, showed the body to the baby, covered Brandi with dirt, and then drove off.

The prosecution is expected to call more witnesses, starting at 9 a.m.