Janet McConnaughey / Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Uniformed female sheriff's deputies held Jesslyn Lirette's hands as she walked to the courthouse Tuesday for her longtime boyfriend's first hearing on charges of killing and decapitating their disabled 7-year-old son.
Lafourche Parish deputies escorted Jeremiah Lee Wright, whose hands were manacled to his waist. He stared but did not speak when reporters and photographers asked if he had anything to say about
Jori Lirette's death.
Wright, 30, was assigned defense attorney Kerry Cuccia, director of the Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana at the hearing, which was required within 72 hours of arrest to ask whether the person can pay an attorney.
That appointment doesn't mean prosecutors are sure to seek capital punishment, Cuccia said.
Any time someone is booked with first-degree murder, "we try to get involved at the very beginning," he said. The district attorney will decide whether to ask a grand jury to charge Wright with first-degree murder and to seek capital punishment.
District Attorney Camille A. "Cam" Morvant did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press.
Thibodaux Police Chief Scott Silverii said Monday that Wright waived his right to an attorney on Sunday and confessed to killing Jori, who had been born three months premature and had numerous
medical problems and very limited speech.
The motive was unclear, but Wright, whose bond has been set at $5 million, said he was tired of caring for the boy, the police chief said.
Silverii said the boy's feet and one hand also were cut off, recovered in several white plastic garbage bags. A preliminary autopsy indicated Jori also had been bludgeoned, he said.
The chief said Jori's head was left by the side of the road so that Lirette, 27, would see it when she came home. By the time she arrived, police were already there and had removed the head.
Wright's only explanation for doing so was "just that he wanted her to feel stupid when she saw the head," Silverii said.
The killing was the first since 2008 in Thibodaux, a city of about 14,500 people.
As Lirette left the courthouse, one deputy rubbed her back while the other held her hand.
Two men, who asked a photographer to identify them only as family members, laid a stuffed bear and flowers and tied a balloon along with scores of similar bright memorials in front of the house where Jori died.
Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert contributed to this report from Thibodaux.