Jury sentences Joekel to death for 2012 cop killings

Published 7:03 pm Sunday, February 9, 2020

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EDGARD — A 12-person jury took only one hour of deliberation to sentence Kyle Joekel to death for his involvement in the August 2012 murders of St. John the Baptist Parish deputies Jeremy Triche and Brandon Nielsen.  

The unanimous verdict came Sunday, less than 48 hours after Joekel was found guilty as charged on two counts of first-degree murder. While the jury announced its decision this weekend, Judge J. Sterling Snowdy will issue the official sentence at a later date, as per court procedure.  

Brian Smith, the other shooter in the fallen deputies’ case, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and deemed incapable of standing trial at this time. 

On Saturday, family members of Triche and Nielsen took the stand to tell the jury how the Aug. 16, 2012 shootings irreversibly changed their lives and left wounds in their hearts that can never heal.  

Kyle Joekel

The deputies were killed in an ambush-style storm of gunfire at the LaPlace Scenic Riverview Trailer Park. Officers Jason Triche and Michael Scott Boyington were also injured during the day’s events.  

Prosecutors alleged Joekel and Smith were part of an anti-government extremist group called the Sovereign Citizens. 

The jury chose to believe four witnesses who said Joekel lifted an AK-47 and fired in the direction of Jeremy Triche before standing over an injured Nielsen and shooting him at point-blank range. Autopsy photos shown in court this week depicted gunshot wounds on the officers’ bodies.  

Joekel’s DNA was found on the AK-47 that left bullet holes in Nielsen’s body. Additionally, Nielsen’s DNA was found near the bottom of Joekel’s pants. One of his boots was discovered by police on the ground, near the AK-47. 

Jeremy Triche’s parents, Mike and Edie, were close enough to the scene to hear the bullets fire that fateful morning. Even after seven and a half years, the pain is still sharp. Triche’s young son, who was only 2 years old at the time of his death, must grow up without his father there to teach him baseball or give help him navigate life’s twists and turns.  

Family man Nielsen had five children between the ages of 6 and 18 at the time of his death, and his widow Daniell Nielsen Jenkins is haunted by their daughter growing up without memories of her daddy.  

Nielsen was 34 years old when he was killed, and Triche was four days away from turning 28. Each year, their legacy is honored during the Spots and Dots Fishing Tournament, which has raised more than $90,000 for fallen and injured officers throughout Louisiana since 2014.  

The fallen officers’ family members were present for the duration of the trial. Joekel’s parents were also present, and his father and sister took the witness stand to share details of his upbringing. 

 According to Joekel’s family, it was common in rural Nebraska for children to own and operate guns before reaching middle school. Joekel’s relationship with his parents was strained in the years leading up to the police killings, and his family was somber as they addressed the court Saturday. 

The trial began Saturday, Feb. 1, after several days of jury selection in Rapides Parish. Jury members were transported to St. John and sequestered for the duration of the trial.