Authorities are casting a skeptical eye on claims by the husband of a murder victim who has reported someone tried to kill him from a distance of 60 feet with an automatic pistol, yet left gunpowder burns on his shirt.
Hancock County Sheriff's Department Chief Investigator Kenny Hurt said Tuesday claims by Leo Laurent, who told police he was the subject of an attack on the Waveland beach Friday night, are beyond credibility.
Laurent, 30, showed officers gunpowder burns on a T-shirt he was wearing after reporting a would-be assassin fired a .45-caliber round at him from a car on Beach Boulevard. The attack reportedly occurred as Laurent walked the beach in the dark, 20 yards from the road.
Hurt, who is investigating the murder of Brandi Laurent, Leo Laurent's wife, said he discussed the powder-burn theory with a ballistics expert. The distance was too great to leave powder residue on the man's shirt, he said.
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"It's not going to happen. No way," the veteran investigator said.
The reported attack occurred around 10 p.m. Friday. Officers who raced to the scene after receiving a dispatch call found Leo Laurent standing behind his white Ford Explorer by the beach, said Waveland Police Chief James Varnell. He said Laurent told police he had been fired upon from a blue Oldsmobile occupied by two black men who had passed him, wheeled around in a driveway on Beach Boulevard, then came back and fired a single shot from a silver pistol before speeding away.
Officers found no tire marks in the sand or driveway where Laurent said the attackers had turned the car around, according to a police department release.
Laurent has been described as a person of interest in the death of his wife, 29-year-old Brandi Hawkins Laurent. He reported her missing in early August and said she disappeared from their rural Hancock County home at midnight Aug. 3 after the two argued.
At the time Laurent told deputies his wife had been on drugs for several days. According to his statements, she left their rural home dressed only in a shirt, shorts and flip-flops with no car keys, wallet or cell phone. She apparently was never seen alive again, except by her killer.
Brandi Laurent was considered a missing person for three months, until her remains were found by a horseback search party at a shallow grave site about a mile from the couple's home outside Kiln on Nov. 10.
Leo Laurent has maintained innocence of his wife's death and sheriff's investigators have filed no charges yet. He did not attend memorial services for his wife Sunday and is now said to be in Texas.
Varnell said other events unfolded as officers continued their questioning of Laurent on the beach Friday night:
He told officers: "Hey, if you catch these guys, you may be able to solve two cases at the same time." He then told them he was the husband of a murder victim.
Laurent told police he had no narcotics or weapons in his car and gave permission for a vehicle search. Under the front seat of the Explorer they discovered a .45-caliber pistol.
The gun contained shells of the same caliber and make as a spent shell casing found in the area and believed to be from the shot fired at Laurent. He told officers: "Oh, I forgot about the gun. That's an old one. I don't think it even works."
Police impounded the gun and are continuing tests. Varnell said Tuesday he expects to have more information "in the near future." He declined to comment on whether a test was performed to detect gunpowder residue on Laurent's person.
"We're not going to release that at this time," Varnell told the Sun Herald, adding the case remains under investigation.