Man linked to St. John deputy killings released on ‘good-time parole’

Published 12:16 am Wednesday, April 5, 2017

LAPLACE — Family members of the two St. John the Baptist Parish deputies killed in a 2012 shootout in a LaPlace mobile home park were stunned to learn one of the perpetrators in the case was released from jail for good behavior.

Derrick Smith, who is an avowed Sovereign Citizen according to the Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections, was released Saturday to the custody of his grandmother in Oak Grove on “good-time parole,” even as authorities issued a warning that he should be approached with extreme caution.

Derrick Smith

Authorities said threats to law enforcement and their families were found in Smith’s jail cell.

Derrick Smith is the son of Terry Smith, who is charged with attempted first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison last year in connection with another matter.

The Smiths are part of a group of people linked to the Aug. 16, 2012, ambush shootings of St. John Deputies.

The suspects are accused of shooting and killing deputies Brandon Nielsen and Jeremy Triche and wounding deputies Michael Scott Boyington and Jason Triche.

Derrick Smith was originally charged with principal to attempted first-degree murder and possession of a firearm. He pleaded guilty in May 2013 to an accessory charge and was sentenced to five years. He received an additional 12 years for the firearm charge.

Daniell Nielsen Jenkins, the widow of Brandon Neilsen, said she was shocked to learn of Smith’s early release.

“It came completely out of the blue,” she said. “No one told us anything. No one asked us anything. What I don’t understand is, how can you release this guy when you know that he has made threats against law enforcement? Why is he eligible to be released on good behavior? That is not good behavior. None of us feel safe. People should be outraged that this domestic terrorist is out of prison.”

An official in the Office of Probation and Parole in Baton Rouge said Derrick Smith cannot leave the state, must remain in his home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and must wear an electronic monitoring device to ensure he abides by the curfew.

Jenkins said the long drawn out court proceedings are stressful for her and the other families. The court ruled last month the trials of defendants Brian Smith and Kyle Joekel would be moved out of St. John Parish.

“We don’t know where it will be or when it will be,” Jenkins said. “We have zero say. It’s so disheartening. It’s like when you go to take a vitamin and it gets stuck. It’s just stuck.”

Brian Smith and Joekel are possibly facing the death penalty in relation to the crimes following first-degree murder and attempted murder indictments from 2012.

Louisiana State Police initially filed charges on seven suspects following the fatal shootings Aug. 16, 2012, implicating Brian Smith, Joekel, Brittney Keith, Terry Smith, Derrick Smith, Chanel Skains and Tenicha Bright.

Derrick Smith; Terry Smith’s wife, Chanel Skains; and Brian Smith’s girlfriend, Britney Keith — previously pleaded guilty as accessories.

Authorities identified Terry and Derrick Smith as contract workers employed at a joint venture project at the Valero St. Charles Refinery. Some of the suspects had ties to a violent anti-government organization known as Sovereign Citizens, which is on the FBI’s watch list, authorities said.

Boyington was working a traffic detail around 4 a.m. in the parking lot, which is used by Valero St. Charles Refinery contract workers and sustained wounds from gunshots fired from a vehicle. Boyington was hit several times but survived and managed to alert dispatch to a description of his shooter’s vehicle.

Police said they were able to place all three Smiths, Joekel and Bright in that car.

The other deputies were attacked when they went to Riverview Trailer Park, where the suspects lived.

Deputies Jeremy Triche and Brandon Nielsen had tracked the vehicle used in the initial shooting to a residence at the mobile home park and were killed when a suspect opened fire on them with an assault rifle while they were questioning two others. Deputy Jason Triche was also injured in the shootings.