Britney Keith sentenced on charges resulting from 2012 officer slayings

Published 4:51 pm Thursday, February 17, 2022

EDGARD — Two years after a guilty verdict and death penalty was given to gunman Kyle Joekel, another sentence has been handed down to one of the original suspects in the 2012 shooting deaths of St. John Parish deputies Brandon Nielsen and Jeremy Triche.

This week, Judge J. Sterling Snowdy of the 40th Judicial District Court sentenced Britney Keith on two counts of accessory after the fact of first degree murder, as well as one count of accessory after the fact to attempted first degree murder.

Keith was sentenced to five years on each count, and all sentences are to run concurrent with one another.

On February 14, 2022, Snowdy initially ordered the two counts of accessory after the fact to first degree murder to run consecutively. However, the court reconvened less than an hour later to formally re-sentence the defendant.

According to court records, an agreement was previously made between the defendant and the district attorney at the time that, if the defendant pleaded guilty, the state would recommend a sentence of two to five years on each count to run concurrent.

During this week’s sentencing hearing, Defense Attorney Anthony Ibert requested that the defendant’s lack of a prior criminal record and young age at the time of the incident be taken into account while sentencing.

Keith was 23 years old when she was pinned as one of seven original suspects in ambush-style shootings that killed Triche and Nielsen and left SJSO deputies Michael Scott Boyington and Jason Triche wounded on August 16, 2012.

Keith pleaded guilty in 2013 after charges against her were reduced from two counts of principal to first degree murder to accessory after the fact of first degree murder.

Leading up to the shooting deaths of the St. John Parish officers, Keith was traveling between states with a group of individuals known as “sovereign citizens” with a deep distrust in government. Keith’s boyfriend at the time, Brian Smith, was charged with first degree murder as an alleged gunman during the August 2012 ambush.

Smith was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and found incompetent to stand trial.

During Kyle Joekel’s trial in February 2020, it was stated that Smith was being held in a state facility to address his mental health needs. Dr. Matthew Gamble, a psychiatrist at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, said Smith experienced paranoid delusions and audio hallucinations that were “largely persecutory, with an overarching theme of government conspiracy.”

“Largely, they have to do with the FBI and Congress, and that he was a person of interest who had to be abducted and/or exterminated. He referred to himself as the golden egg,” Gamble said.

Keith testified that she watched both Smith and Joekel pick up weapons and fire them in the direction of police officers on August 16, 2012.

During this week’s sentencing hearing, defense attorney Ibert stated that Keith has requested admission to a rehabilitation facility in Texas but was denied due to the open court case. According to Ibert, Keith has also sought treatment for PTSD at a facility in Ruston, Louisiana.