Police Chief Scott Silverii said Monday that Jeremiah Lee Wright, 30, of Thibodaux waived his right to an attorney and confessed to killing Jori Lirette within a half-hour of being brought to the police station Sunday. Wright was booked with first-degree murder and held in lieu of $5 million bond. Detective Ricky Ross, a department spokesman, said Wright did not have an attorney.
Silverii said the boy's feet and one hand also were cut off, recovered in several white plastic garbage bags. A preliminary autopsy indicated Jori also had been bludgeoned, he said. His head was left by the side of the road so the child's mother, 27-year-old Jesslyn Lirette, would see it when she came home, the chief said.
Wright's only explanation for doing so was "just that he wanted her to feel stupid when she saw the head," Silverii said.
The killing was the first since 2008 in Thibodaux, a city of about 14,500 people.
Silverii said the boy apparently was decapitated over the kitchen sink, which was sent to the Louisiana State Police crime lab along with a box of tools found nearby. Wright told investigators he began killing the boy about 30 minutes after Lirette had left Sunday to repair her pickup truck so she could take Jori to a doctor Tuesday.
Police had been called to the house last month when the couple had an argument - possibly about money - though neither person brought charges, Ross said. The police chief said Wright had been arrested a few times previously, though he was never charged with violent crimes. Wright served 10 days for theft in 2005.
Lirette told The Daily Comet of Thibodaux that she and Wright had been together for 10 years, but that she had planned for some time to leave him.
"I didn't get out fast enough," she said.
Mark Chatagnier, a friend of Wright's, told the newspaper Wright was unemployed and that Lirette often left him to care for Jori, even when she was not working.
"She would take off and totally expect Jerry to do everything," Chatagnier said.
Lirette denied that. She told the newspaper she cared for another disabled person to pay household bills and was still around to care for her son, who had been born three months premature, could say only a few words and weighed no more than 50 pounds when he died.
"He was my star. No matter what people think or say, he was always top priority in my life," Lirette said through tears during a news conference Monday afternoon. "I've done everything I can for him."
When Lirette returned from fixing the truck, she found her home blocked by police tape.
When she identified herself, Silverii had a captain and Ross, who was a minister for 12 years and remains a lay pastor, tell her what happened.
"These are experienced men. They came out of there in tears. Just absolutely in tears," Silverii said.
Grief counselors from the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office also spent time with her, he said.
South Thibodaux Elementary School, where Jori was a second-grader, was "a very somber place" Monday, said Floyd Benoit, spokesman for the Lafourche Parish school system. Counselors were on hand there and at other schools where people knew Jori, he said.
The school has 560 students, including 84 second-graders and 18 in special education across all grades, he said.
Jori had attended South Thibodaux since pre-kindergarten, principal Diane Smith said.
"Everyone loved him. Even though he could not express in words his feelings to us, he did it with his smile," she said.
Lirette ended her statement at the news conference with a message to her son:
"In Heaven I believe you're a beautiful star and you will always shine bright inside my heart, inside everybody's heart. If I could go back and change yesterday, I would. But I can't.
"You will be missed and loved by everyone and we will pray every day in your honor. Love you, Mom."