Polk Co. murder suspect takes stand

LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - The murder trial of Richard Gagnon continued Thursday morning with the testimony of Dr. Robert Lyon from Forensic Medical services of Texas.

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.

Lyon told Prosecuting Attorney Joe Martin that Ryter's body was brought to him in Beaumont with clothes on.

"He had a gunshot wound to his chest," Lyon said. "He had a scar on his face and a bruise on his shoulder."

Lyon said the wound was somewhat large with scallop borders that was caused by shotgun pellets.

"The pellets penetrated, or went through his left ribs, the sack above his heart, his heart, his left lung and his aorta," Lyon said. "There was no exit wound."

Lyon said he recovered 29 pellets and a shotgun wad from under his shoulder.

"He had some heart disease and meth in his blood, but the shotgun wound led to his death," Lyon said.

Lyon would then go through photographs of Ryter that he took in the autopsy.

Lyon noted that there were several scrapes on the body that were non-specific and that they could have occurred at either when he died or a few days before.

Lyon went through several photos of items found on Ryter's body. Lyon noted that he did not find any meth on Ryter.

Lyon told defense attorney Tom Brown that the trajectory seemed to be straight front to back.

"It did not appear to be at an angle," Lyon said. "It was straight on. HE could have been standing up or laying down with [Gagnon] standing over him, but either way it was a straight entry."

The state rested their side at 10 a.m.

In the affidavit Gagnon claimed that he shot Ryter to protect himself and his mother, the affidavit stated. He said when Ryter started walking toward him, he closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.

However, the Polk County sheriff 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 of history of Ryter assaulting Gagnon's mother. Conversely, there is a history of Gagnon assaulting his mother, according to the affidavit.

The first witness for the defense was Gagnon's 14 year-old cousin.

The cousin said he was at the house the day of the shooting. He also said that he has visited with Gagnon since then. He said he has not talked about the case and the only person he has talked to was a counselor.

The cousin would then recall the shooting.

"It was in the afternoon," he said. "I was in my cousin's room, watching a music video. Me and my cousin started hearing screaming."

He said it was Gagnon's mother screaming and it was in her room. He continued saying he didn't hear anyone else.

"It sounded like someone was getting hit," he said. "My cousin said, 'mom, mom!' and we took off to the room."

His cousin said they got to the room and the door was mostly closed. He said he could not remember who opened the door but they stood there.

"In the corner of the room by the bed, BJ [Ryter] had my mom and was hitting her," he said. "It looked like she was unconscious. He was over her and hitting her….. Richard never stopped yelling,'mom, mom, mom' and that's when he [Ryter] started coming at us."

He said next that Ryter came towards them with a lighter balled up in his hand.

He said there were times when Ryter was nice and times when he was not.

"You could just feel it," he said. "I don't know how to explain it, you could just tell."

Brown then went back to the shooting.

"He was over her hitting her," Gagnon's cousin said. "He was hitting her with whatever he had in his hand."

He continued and said as Ryter approached them, Gagnon grabbed the gun that was by a freezer in the room.

"He put his arm in front of me and closed his eyes and then pulled the trigger," he said. "He took a step back and then fell forward. That's something you don't want to see."

The cousin also said that he was scared.

"That dude was crazy," he said. "We all thought we was going to die."

Gagnon's cousin continued that after the shooting, his uncle John Penry and Gagnon's mom were trying to see if Ryter was alive.

"Richard…. After that, it was just blank," he said.

He continued saying that once the authorities arrived, he went to the sheriff's office and was questioned by a woman.

Martin asked the cousin if he ever saw Gagnon do drugs.

"Not really," he said.

The cousin also told him he didn't know how Gagnon acted when on drugs.

"Sir, I don't understand what you are asking, he said. "I aint never seen him high on kush."

He did agree that Gagnon did get into arguments with his mother.

"It would be the same as me arguing with my grandma," he said. "I've seen him yell or argue with her a time or two."

Martin asked if he saw Gagnon kick in the door and he said he did not see any kicking.

He told Martin that after Gagnon shot Ryter he did not see a shell be ejected.

The cousin continued and told Martin that in the room Gagnon only yelled, 'mom,mom'. He said Ryter called them punks. He told Martin that it is hard to remember and he can't remember Gagnon telling Ryter to stop.

He told Martin that Ryter just flipped out and that Martin is just trying to word things they way he wants.

The cousin told Brown that it has been hard on him.

"I have tried to forget about it," he said.

Brown then called Deborah Gagnon back to the stand. Deborah said that on Nov.6, 2013, after the shooting, she had to go to the emergency room in Livingston.

Deborah then recalled the shooting.

"I remember [Gagnon] coming in and yelling, stop hitting my mom.," Deborah said.

Deborah also told Brown that the gun was in her room by the ice box and that it was not in Gagnon's room.?

Gagnon was the first to take the stand after the jury went on break.

Gagnon started his testimony by stating to Brown that he was on probation for a burglary case and got out of jail a couple of months before the shooting.

He said he first met Ryter after he got out of jail.

Gagnon said he only cared about his mom at the time.

"I'm not going to say I liked him," Gagnon said. "But as long as my mom was happy."

Gagnon said the arguments between Ryter and his mom started in September.

"Usually every time I go in there they stopped arguing," Gagnon said. "This time they did not."

Gagnon said he and his cousin went to the room.

"I kicked it open," Gagnon said. "Not like kicking it but like nudging it with my foot. I told him to get off my mom; I thought my mom was unconscious.

Gagnon said he next grabbed the gun that was beside the icebox inside his mom's room. Gagnon said he was looking at Ryter as he was coming towards him.

Gagnon told Brown he knew Ryter had been to prison before for cutting a guy up really bad.

Gagnon then agreed with Brown that earlier in the day of the shooting, he was told by Detective Delaney that Ryter would go to jail the next day for a probation violation.

Gagnon then recalled the shooting.

"I just picked it up and shot," Gagnon said. "I did not aim. He took two steps back and the fell forward."

Gagnon said after Ryter was on the ground he got scared and wasn't sure what to do.

"I gave the gun to my mom," Gagnon said. "I went to the living room, and then we went outside and waited."

Gagnon said when he told deputies that he heard his mom say shoot, that it was a lie.

"I was scared," Gagnon said.

Gagnon agreed with Brown that when he pulled the trigger, he felt he was afraid for his life.

Gagnon then talked to Martin about an incident at her birthday party. Gagnon said he got into it with his mom and told her he was going to smoke when he wants.

Gagnon also said that he had smoked kush the day of the shooting.

Gagnon said he did not carry the gun around a lot but he would use it sometimes.

"I would use it to squirrel hunt sometimes," Gagnon said. "I would ask my mom if I could use it."

Gagnon also agreed with Martin that he talked to detectives a lot about how he did not like Ryter.

Gagnon also told Martin that he disagreed that a cut on his mom was an old cut. Gagnon also said he did not remember telling Ryter that he had a gun and would use it or that he said "back up due."

Martin asked Gagnon why he said in a patrol car, "I did this for you, momma and daddy."

"I did it because of what he was doing to my mom," Gagnon said. "It was the spur of-the-moment decision, what would you have done?"

"Not that," Martin replied.

Gagnon said he was trying to protect not only his mom and himself, but also his cousin that was with him.

The first witness in Martin's rebuttal was Polk County Detective Christie Allen.

Allen said she interviewed Gagnon's cousin at the sheriff's office. Allen said he told her that Gagnon was between the door and the closet when he shot Ryter.

Martin then recalled Gagnon's mother.

Deborah agreed that she went to the hospital three weeks after the shooting to take care of injuries she sustained in the argument between her and Ryter.

Deborah would then have Martin read discharge papers from the hospital. Martin read the papers that stated she had swimmer's ear in the right. Martin then read another page stating that Deborah went in complaining of pain on the left ear.

Arguments were closed at 2:35 p.m.

Due to a time conflict with the jury, the case will resume Friday morning at 8:30 with closing arguments and deliberation.

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