Trial begins for man accused of killing 3 girls while driving drunk in Lafourche

Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 7:32 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 21, 2023 at 4:46 PM CDT
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THIBODAUX, La. (WVUE) - Opening statements began Monday (Aug. 21) in the vehicular homicide trial of a Lafourche Parish man accused of killing three Nicholls College students.

Authorities said 18-year-olds Hali Coss and Michaela Bowling and 19-year-old Lily Dufrene were killed over Thanksgiving weekend in 2021 when they were heading home from Dufrene’s birthday dinner. All three were Hahnville High graduates and has just begun their freshman years at Nicholls State, studying health sciences and nursing.

Louisiana State Police say Joey Clement, 39, crashed his Ford F-150 into the victims’ SUV head-on after crossing the center line. Police say he appeared drunk and arrested him for his fourth offense of driving while intoxicated. Prosecutors says Clement had a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 percent -- twice the legal limit -- at the time of the crash.

Both vehicles were engulfed in flames. Clement sustained minor injuries.

Jury selection came to a close Monday after attorneys for both sides questioned prospective jurors most of the day about their thoughts on drunk driving. Clement sat quietly as defense attorneys and prosecutors traded questions.

Friends and family members of the victims also were in attendance.

Prosecutors say Dufrene, who was driving the SUV, had not been drinking. They also say Clement admitted to drinking four beers and two shots of Jagermeister, as well as having Adderall and Zoloft in his system.

“There’s nothing that can be done, but I hope the family ... they get closure,” said Emma France, a friend of the girls. “It’s difficult. He was the last person to see them and it’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Another friend of the victims, Alyssa Moreau, said, “This could happen to anyone. I think drunk driving should be taken more seriously. I think he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. He took those three girls’ lives. Lily didn’t get to celebrate her birthday.”

Clement’s attorney refutes LSP’s original report and claims the victims’ SUV is the one that actually crossed into his client’s lane of travel. He says just because Clement had been drinking does not mean he should be found guilty of three counts of vehicular homicide.

If convicted on all three counts, Clement faces up to 90 years in prison.

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