VILLE PLATTE, La. – Authorities worked Wednesday to figure out why a troubled small-town insurance agent shot two unarmed state investigators to death at his office before killing himself.
They believe John Melvin Lavergne killed veteran insurance fraud investigators Rhett Jeansonne and Kim Sledge on Tuesday afternoon after they'd come to collect information, said Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. It was not clear exactly what the investigators were looking for.
Lavergne barricaded himself in his office and a SWAT team and negotiators spent hours outside before bursting in to find him dead.
Authorities say he had been in business for almost 40 years but had a history of troubles. The state Department of Insurance in 2009 had suspended him insurance license and fined him $16,500, saying he provided fraudulent proof of vehicle insurance several times. He was 64 at the time.
In January, state police arrested Lavergne and charged him with unfair trade practices. In October 2010, police received complaints that he was not sending payments from his customers to their insurance companies, according to a news release. As a result, at least four customers had policies cancelled.
Charlene Adcock said she and her boyfriend had been Lavergne's customers for many years, but stopped doing business with him after some problems.
"Both me and my boyfriend, we'd go to get our driver's license renewed, and we'd have flags on our insurance" that meant it had been cancelled, she said.
When they complained to Lavergne, he would fix it, but then it happened again, she said.
Residents say Lavergne and other members of his family owned several businesses in the city of about 8,000 some 70 miles west of Baton Rouge.
Cynthia Doucet said she was driving by Tuesday when she saw Jeansonne lying outside the insurance office. She approached him with several others hoping to help.
"The man said he couldn't breathe and he was hollering for help," she said. "I went closer to the man and I see this lady lying inside the door and she was looking like she was dead."
Associated Press writer Mary Foster contributed to this report from New Orleans.