NEW ORLEANS – The mother of a wheelchair-bound 7-year-old who was beheaded and dismembered wrote when her son was less than 6 months old that his father — now accused in his killing — wanted him dead because the baby was suffering, court papers show.
Jori Lirette was killed after his mother told her longtime boyfriend, 30-year-old Jeremiah Wright, that she was kicking him out of their Thibodaux home, according to a sworn police statement made part of the court record Tuesday. Wright, who police say confessed to the killing, was booked with first-degree murder and is being held on $5 million bond in the boy's death.
That statement, used as basis to get an arrest warrant Sunday, also quoted Wright as telling investigators he was tired of caring for Jori. The boy's body, lower legs and one forearm, which were cut off, were found in a trash can with his torso. A preliminary autopsy indicated he also had been bludgeoned, Police Chief Scott Silverii said.
The statement by Thibodaux Police Lt. Kim Favalora said Jori's head was left by the side of the road so that his mother, 27-year-old Jesslyn Lirette, would see it when she came home and "feel stupid." By the time she arrived, police were already there and had removed the head.
Wright's attorney, Kerry Cuccia, director of the Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana, said early reports on his client's statements had given the impression that "Mr. Wright was being flippant or insincere about what he said, or callous. When you read the entire statement it comes across entirely different to me."
He said he couldn't go into further detail.
Wright had wanted his son dead when he was six months old, Lirette wrote in a sworn statement in September 2004. She said Wright had called her saying "he was tired of seeing the baby suffer and wanted him dead that I needed to do something about his suffering and end it all." He hung up but called back "and said he loved me but still felt the same about the baby," she wrote.
A Lafourche Parish judge issued a restraining order the next day, on Sept. 30.
Jori was born three months prematurely and spent much of his first year hospitalized in New Orleans, Lirette has told The Daily Comet of Thibodaux. By age 7, he needed a feeding tube, had heart problems and cerebral palsy that kept him in a wheelchair, and had limited speech.
A week before she gave birth, Lirette also said she felt unsafe around Wright. She got a restraining order against him on April 2, 2004, six days before her son was born. She wrote that on March 25, 2004, Wright called her names, broke "the baby's piggy bank" and — when she told him to clean up the broken glass — shoved her onto a pile of CDs on the bed, hurting her back.
"I do fear for the life of me & my unborn child," she wrote.
But she apparently let the orders lapse.
Cuccia said he could not comment about the restraining orders because he had not seen them.
As Lirette walked to court for Tuesday's hearing about whether Wright could afford an attorney, uniformed woman sheriff's deputies held her hands.
In October 2004, a judge ordered Wright to pay $187 a month child support for Jori. That lawsuit was brought on the infant's behalf by the state Department of Social Services.
Police took Wright into custody after he said Jori's head "was that of a CPR dummy," according to Favalora's statement.
Wright's hands were manacled to his waist as men deputies escorted him into court. He stared but did not speak when reporters and photographers asked if he had anything to say about his son's death.
Favalora wrote that "Wright was very matter-of-fact as he calmly explained that he thought for years that Jori was his son. Wright said that he recently saw the way the dummy looked at him and there were signs and little things the dummy did to him that let him know that Jori was not his son, but a dummy."
Favalora said Wright told police that "he was tired of taking care of the dummy. Wright said that as soon as he realized that Jori was a dummy, and not his son, he 'started contemplating on killing him,'" according to the statement.
Cuccia said it was too early to say whether the police affidavit had him thinking about a possible insanity plea.
The document also quoted Wright as saying that he and Lirette had argued the night before, and he expected eviction. Lirette had left about 8 a.m. to get her truck, "and she was planning to pick up the truck and use it to take Wright to his mother's house," Favalora wrote.
Wright then said that he 'went to work,' referring to killing Jori, right after Jesslyn left," the statement said.
"Wright added that because of Jori's medical condition ... he could not cry much," the statement said. It continues with graphic details about the decapitation and dismemberment.
Police say they found a bloody saw in a toolbox under the kitchen sink and found the boy's torso and limbs inside a clear garbage bag in the trash can outside of the home.
The killing was the first since 2008 in Thibodaux, a city of about 14,500 people.
Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert contributed to this report from Thibodaux.