The murder trial of Richard Gagnon began Tuesday morning in Court Room B at the Polk County Judicial Center.
Gagnon is accused of shooting and killing Brent Ryter in November of 2013. The arrest affidavit claimed Gagnon shot Ryter in the chest with a 12-gauge shotgun.
In the affidavit, Gagnon claimed that he shot Ryter to protect himself and his mother. He said when Ryter started walking toward him, he closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.
However, the Polk County Sheriff's deputy that obtained the arrest warrant said that Gagnon did not see Ryter hit his mother; he only heard it from the bedroom. The affidavit stated that the woman didn't have any visible injuries other than a small abrasion under her right eye.
In addition, the affidavit stated Ryter lived at the residence, and there was no previous history of Ryter assaulting Gagnon's mother. Conversely, there is a history of Gagnon assaulting his mother, according to the affidavit.
In his opening statement, prosecuting attorney Joe Martin told the jury that Brent Ryter moved in with Gagnon's mother after his father died.
Martin said at some point, Deborah Gagnon told Ryter that she did not want him doing drugs with Richard Gagnon at her house. The prosecutor told the jurors that an argument resulted, and Richard Gagnon claimed that he saw Ryter hit his mother, and that's when he shot him.
Martin continued and said that Gagnon's story changed each time he talked to a different detective.
"When Detective Ricky Childress got on scene, Gagnon said he went in the room to tell Ryter to stop and my mom said, 'shoot', so I shot," Martin said.
Martin continued and said in a third statement, Gagnon said there was an argument, and it was an accident. Martin said in the fourth statement Gagnon once again changed his statement.
Martin told the jury that they will see evidence that shows Gagnon shot Ryter at close range through the upper chest.
Martin said it is important to make sure the story lines up with the physical evidence.
"I don't think the statements made by Richard Gagnon are true," Martin concluded.
Defense attorney Tom Brown said that just because Richard Gagnon had done some bad stuff in the past, doesn't mean he committed a crime in this particular instance.
Brown claimed the shooting was self-defense.
"He knew Ryter was a bad guy," Brown said. "He knew Ryter was dangerous on drugs, and that day he was on drugs. Add all that together and you have a bad situation. It was in defense of his mother."
The first witness to take the stand is Polk County Detective Richard Delaney.
Delaney said he first met Richard Gagnon when he was brought in for a burglary charge in the Crystal Lakes area in August of 2013.
"He asked me if I could help him," Delaney said. "I said I could if he could help us on some cases."
Delaney said he knew Richard Gagnon did not like Ryter when he moved in.
"He was concerned," Delaney said. "When this guy was around, all his mom did was drink and get drunk. He didn't like that. He thought he might be on parole and was not checking in with his officer."
Delaney said it took time for Richard Gagnon to get a full ID on him. Delaney said he could not get him until he knew for sure that he had a warrant.
"He was finally able to get me a paystub, and I ran stuff and was able to confirm it was him," Delaney said. "I told him that we would get him."
Delaney said he told Richard Gagnon that when Ryter came home for lunch, for him and his mom to make an excuse to leave the house, so they would not be there when the detectives showed up.
"Gagnon texted me that his mom and Ryter and they were arguing," Delaney said. "At that time, we had a call for a felony theft, so I had to go there. While on scene, I got a call from Gagnon, but I could not understand him. A few minutes later we got a radio call about a shooting in the Indian Springs area, and that's when I put two and two together."?
Delaney said Richard Gagnon told him that his mom was scared because Ryter claimed to have ties to the Aryan Brotherhood and that she was scared he would get someone to hurt them for turning him in.
Brown asked Delaney if it was true he told Richard Gagnon that Ryter would be in jail by the next day, and he would be gone for good. Delaney said that was correct. Delaney agreed that the plan did evolve over time for how they were going to get him. Delaney then recalled the phone call and told Brown that he was not sure what the Richard Gagnon call was about because the call was distorted.
Deborah Gagnon told Martin that her son began using drugs mainly after his father died from cancer.
Deborah Gagnon recalled meeting Ryter in early August of 2013. Deborah said they took a trip to Houston and met some friends.
"It seemed suspicious," Deborah Gagnon said. "When we got back to Livingston, I found out we went to Houston to a bar for a drug buy."
Deborah Gagnon then recalled that she was strongly against drugs and felt ashamed that she had done drugs with Ryter one time. Deborah Gagnon also said that after Ryter was kicked out of where he was staying, she allowed him to come stay with her.
"It was myself, him, my brother, and my son living there," Deborah Gagnon said.
Deborah Gagnon said that she believed Richard Gagnon just wanted her to be happy and that she did not know if there was any reason for her son to not like Ryter.
Deborah Gagnon said that in the beginning she was happy. She also said that Richard Gagnon and Ryter were good with each other.
"The things we did together as a group was go swimming," Deborah Gagnon said. "But things with them were drug use. BJ [Ryter] started seeking a relationship with Richard because he knew he would be able to get him drugs."
Deborah Gagnon told Martin that Richard Gagnon was interested in meth and synthetic marijuana.
Deborah Gagnon said the relationship between her son and Ryter turned sour once Ryter started doing drugs on a regular basis.
Martin then asked Deborah Gagnon about the purchase of a shotgun.
"I bought it sometime in October," Deborah Gagnon said.
Deborah Gagnon said it was a 12-gauge but could not remember if it was a pump.
"BJ talked me into buying that gun," Deborah Gagnon said. "He said our home was at risk of the Aryan brotherhood, and we could be shot up at any time."
Deborah Gagnon said she bought the gun in her name and with her money.
"Richard was not supposed to have that gun because he was on deferred adjudication," Deborah Gagnon said.
Deborah Gagnon continued and said that she never saw Richard Gagnon with the gun in an argument.
Martin then asked Deborah Gagnon to go through Nov .6 in her head.
"I went to work that day," Deborah Gagnon said. "I left early because I was sick. Richard called me and told me [Ryter] had a blue warrant and was considered armed and dangerous. He asked me to not come home."
Deborah Gagnon said she got home around 3 p.m. that day. Deborah Gagnon said when she got home, Ryter was in the driveway with his employer.
"When I got out of the car he tried to argue with me," Deborah Gagnon said. "I said I was sick and needed to lay down. I went inside, and he followed me. He started to argue with me in the bedroom, and he threw an ash tray at me. He eventually settled down, and I took a shower.?
Deborah Gagnon continued and said after that, her other son came over to get a table. After he left, the argument continued.
"He came outside and started yelling at me and said he was angry the relationship was over," Deborah Gagnon said. "He kept getting more angry and picked up a radio to hit me, but he didn't. After he put it down, I took it and went inside with it to put it up. He came inside and got in my face, like nose to nose. He gets really close to my face and started talking ugly. He started talking about my dead husband and how would I feel having my brother executed in my bed. I told him that he has to go. No more talking or arguing was going to change that and that he had to go immediately."
Deborah Gagnon said he got angry and started kicking boxes of stuff across the room.
"I stood up and said he isn't going to intimidate me," Deborah Gagnon said. "I told him that I was going to call the cops. Then I thought twice and said, 'I'm just going to leave.' He then grabbed my hand and started hitting me with his other hand. Everything happened really fast. I don't know what he had in his hand."
During her testimony, Deborah Gagnon said she couldn't remember whether Ryter was hitting her with his hand or his fist.
"Next I could hear my son say, 'stop hitting my mom.'” Deborah Gagnon said. “He yelled it loudly."
Deborah Gagnon told Martin she probably left that out of her statement to Detective Ricky Childress because she was shocked and traumatized.
Deborah said that Ryter turned his attention to her son.
"He go off of me and ran to Richard," Deborah said.
Deborah Gagnon said her son then grabbed the gun that was lying next to the door and pulled the trigger.
"Richard fired the gun as he was pulling it up," Deborah said. "BJ stumbled back against the wall."
Deborah Gagnon said that she left the room to call 911. She said that while she was on the phone with dispatchers, her son was panicking and pacing back and forth. Deborah said she did not remember Richard Gagnon calling detective Delaney, but it was possible and likely that he did.
Deborah said after the 911 call, she went back in the room and tried to help Ryter. She said that she took the gun and put it in the closet.
"When they got there, I told them what I did," Deborah said. "I told them the gun was in the closet. They put Richard on the ground and in cuffs and put all of us in different locations."
Deborah Gagnon then pointed out her son in the courtroom as the person who fired the gun and shot Ryter.
Deborah Gagnon told Brown that the gun was a handle-grip shotgun that she got from Walmart.
During her testimony, Deborah Gagnon also said that at the time, she had been diagnosed with cancer, but she said the truth was that she had hepatitis C. Deborah said it was accurate that at the time of the argument, Gagnon would have thought she had liver cancer.
Deborah Gagnon said she told her son at an earlier date that Ryter was a dangerous person.
"I told him of an incident when BJ was at a job in San Antonio and cut a man so bad with a box cutter that he needed 150 stitches," Deborah Gagnon said.
Deborah Gagnon then told Brown that she had considered selling the gun after she bought it because she knew her sons were not supposed to be around them.
Deborah Gagnon touched on drugs next during Tuesday's testimony.
"When BJ used drugs, he became paranoid," Deborah said. "He became irate and hard to control."
Deborah Gagnon told Brown that if her son hadn't come into the room, she could have been seriously hurt or even killed. She said the same was true about Richard and having to use the gun.
Martin would next question Detective David Mitchell was the next witness to take the stand.
At the time of the incident, Mitchell was in the patrol division.
Mitchell said the call about the shooting came in to him at 4:17 pm. Mitchell said he left for the scene a minute later and was about six miles north of Livingston.
In the video, when Mitchell first got on scene, you can hear Deborah and Richard Gagnon crying. Detectives immediately took Richard Gagnon into custody and separated everyone else, so they could all be questioned.
Richard Gagnon first told detectives on scene that he came into the room and did not see his mom moving and that's when he grabbed the gun. Later on, he told Detective Lima that he fired one shot from the 12-gauge and did not aim.
After several minutes, detectives came back on video and asked him more questions. Richard Gagnon said he kicked the door in, he could see him on top of his mother.
"I grabbed the gun, and she said, 'shoot'" Richard Gagnon said.
While waiting in the sheriff vehicle, Richard Gagnon at times would cry and say, "I want my mamma. She's all I have."
On the video, Richard Gagnon tried to talk to officers. He even offered them the Koolaid that was in his house.
Richard Gagnon could also be heard saying, "I wish he would have never hit my momma, I wish he would have stopped."
After a little time passed, Richard Gagnon told Polk County Sheriff's Office Captain Rickie Childress, "I did it for her."
Kay Clifton with Americare EMS then took the stand, telling Martin she received a call around 4:13 pm about a shooting.
"We were in route within 30 seconds," Clifton said. "In 16 minutes, we were on scene."
Clifton said that Ryter was dead when they arrived on scene. Clifton said that they did put monitors on him to make sure.
Childress, who heads up the detectives with the Polk County Sheriff's Office then went through 95 pictures with Martin. The pictures are of the crime scene and show different angles of the bedroom with Ryter's body was still in the room.
Childress also showed Martin a diagram of the wound and pointed out how Richard Gagnon must have shot Ryter from a very close distance because of the small shape of the hole and the lack of pellets.
Childress told Martin that they interviewed Richard Gagnon two times that were not with the statements at the scene. Childress said all of Richard Gagnon's statements differed on what actually happened.
Martin then show a recorded statement that Richard Gagnon made to Childress at the sheriff's office on the night of the incident.
Richard Gagnon told Childress that he understands right from wrong. Gagnon also told Childress that he saw busies on his mom and that Ryter gets violent but he never saw his mom getting hit.
Richard Gagnon told Childress that he called Delaney and said, "Please get this guy he is mad."
"That was about an hour before all this went down," Gagnon said. "They were arguing from the driveway, all the way into the house."
Richard Gagnon said he and his cousin were in another room, listening to country music when he heard his mom say, "You [expletive] hit me."
Richard Gagnon said he went in the room and said, "You need to stop." He said that Ryter said "What you gonna do about it?" and then said, "That was it."
"I was just going to scare him," Richard Gagnon said. "It didn't though. He started coming to me. I pulled the trigger because he had hurt my momma, and I thought he was going to hurt me."
Richard Gagnon said he first asked the two to stop fighting before he grabbed the gun. He told the jury that he closed his eyes when he pulled the trigger.
"I opened my eyes and saw him fall over," Gagnon said. "I put the gun on the bed and ran into the living room, and I was scared. I was scared for me and my mom."
Childress asked if the shot was intentional because the gun was already loaded. All Richard Gagnon said at first was that he did it for his mom.
Childress asked if it was intentional because he was assaulted the Saturday before and had animosity towards him.
Richard Gagnon continued to defend his statement that he was scared after Ryter approached him after beating on his mom.?