Keith Trosclair said he owned his hunting rifle for 40 years before using it to kill his neighbor in 2017.
He said he was forced to use the weapon in self-defense.
“When somebody tells you they’re going to kill you, you worry about losing your life,” the 64-year-old Chackbay man said during testimony Thursday.
Trosclair is facing a second-degree murder charge that could land him in prison for the rest of his life if he’s convicted. He’s accused of killing 46-year-old Christopher Saunders on the afternoon of Dec. 5, 2017.
He was convicted of the murder in 2018 and was sentenced to life imprisonment, but an appeals court threw out the conviction because it resulted from a split jury verdict.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that all juries must be unanimous to convict defendants in criminal trials.
Trosclair’s new trial began Tuesday in the courtroom of District Judge Steven Miller in Thibodaux.
When deputies were called to the scene in 2017, they found Saunders lying lifeless on the ground and Trosclair kneeling with his hands in the air. Investigators said they found the rifle believed to have been used by Trosclair lying between him and Saunders.
Trosclair said he and Saunders had an ongoing dispute over the property line between their homes in the 1200 block of La. 20 in Chackbay.
Saunders was believed to have been walking in his driveway to check the mail. The two men encountered each other and “exchanged words,” authorities said. Trosclair retrieved a Winchester hunting rifle from his truck and shot Saunders three times.
Three days prior to the shooting, Trosclair said Saunders had threatened his cousin with a gun.
“I was scared for my cousin and scared for me,” Trosclair testified in court Thursday.
Trosclair filed a temporary restraining order against Saunders following an argument in 2016 but later dropped the complaint because he said he “didn’t want any more trouble.”
On the day of the shooting, Trosclair said, Saunders made threats against him and reached for a holstered pistol on his hip.
“I saw him and made contact with him,” Trosclair said. “I told him I saw what he did to my cousin. He said, ‘Mother f--, I’m going to kill you.’ I grabbed my gun from my truck. I told Saunders not to threaten me anymore. I’m done being threatened. He reached down for his gun, all the way down to it. He had his hand on it. I picked up mine and I shot him.”
Trosclair said he shot Saunders three times in about five seconds.
Saunders suffered gunshot wounds to his chest, arm and back. A forensic examiner who performed Saunders’ autopsy said Thursday that all three shots had the potential to be fatal.
After the shots rang out, Trosclair said he went into his house and called 911.
“I stood there for a second,” Trosclair said on the stand as he began to sob. “I walked into the house, got my phone and called 911. I dropped the phone by the gun and got on my knees with my hands up and waited for the police.”
Though Saunders was carrying a gun, he was not doing anything illegal, prosecutors said.
“We don’t have to prove why he shot Mr. Saunders,” said Assistant District Attorney Allie Fournet, who is prosecuting the case along with Assistant District Attorney Jason Chatagnier. “We just have to prove that he did. All three shots tracked through major organs and all three had the potential to be fatal. This is not a case of whodunit. It’s not a case of why. This case is very simple. This is the killing of a human being. The defendant aimed a bolt-action hunting rifle and shot Mr. Saunders not once but three times. Mr. Saunders’ life was cut short because of the actions of one man.”
Trosclair said he was put into a no-win situation.
“I was scared for my life,” he said. “I did what I did to save my life.”
The trial was set to conclude by Friday.
— Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.
This article originally appeared on The Courier: 'I was scared for my life': Chackbay murder suspect takes the stand