LAFAYETTE PARISH, La. (KLFY) — The family of a man shot to death in downtown Lafayette is speaking out for the first time after the person responsible for pulling the trigger is found guilty of manslaughter and obstruction of justice.
A jury convicted Tyler Benoit in the death of Christon Chaisson Friday.
Chaisson’s family says these last four years have been agonizing, as they hoped and prayed Chaisson’s killer would be brought to justice.
After Chaisson was killed in 2017, they say his killer only spent a few months in jail.
He’s been on house arrest as he awaited his trial.
While Tyler Benoit was initially charged with second-degree murder, a jury found him guilty of manslaughter.
Chaisson’s family says that’s better than letting him go free.
“We needed to hear the word guilty, and we needed to hear that it was higher than negligent homicide,” Kelley Jolivette-Thomas, the victim’s cousin said.
Jolivette-Thomas says a manslaughter charge was okay because it put Tyler Benoit behind bars.
“For us, I think that’s been the biggest part, is that he needed to be in jail. He’s been out on bond for four years. He’s been on bond for four years and has started a family,” she said.
“That’s what makes a lot of this so much more hurtful because he took a life. He took a life and a three-year-old’s father from him, and now has started his own family.”
She says her family never got to speak to Benoit, but they did see him everyday in the courtroom.
“I don’t know if the suspect ever had any remorse. We never picked up on it as a family, but every time you could just feel this vibe of arrogance. Every time he was able to go home, it made it worse,” Jolivette-Thomas said.
She says she doesn’t know if she can forgive him.
“He has not had a punishment. He has not had a consequence for his actions, so I can’t possibly feel anything different right at this moment for him. I can’t” she added.
While facing Benoit in court this week was tough, she says there’s something even harder their family has had to go through every year.
“The hardest has been going through August 12 every year without justice. Coming up again to that anniversary, knowing that justice had not even been… There was no justice at that point,” she said.
She says now they have justice, but this isn’t the end of their story.
“It’s been a sigh of relief, but it’s still not over. It’s not,” Jolivette-Thomas told News Ten.
She says at least her family can find peace knowing Chaisson’s killer is in jail.
“The murderer… we’re trying not to focus as much on him, and instead focus more on Christon’s legacy. And we’re celebrating those people that have that same call to action like he did,” she said.
The maximum punishment for both Tyler Benoit’s convictions is 40 years in jail.
Benoit’s sentencing will be in the next 60 days.