LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - A daughter’s smile and a son’s smirk are expressions that the grieving Ernest family will never see again.
“Always smiling. Always making a face,” says family member Crystal DeYoung. “We were a happy family. It’s not so happy anymore.”
On Saturday, the Ernest family was ripped apart when police say Dakota Theriot shot and killed Billy Ernest, and his two children, Theriot’s friend, Summer, and her little brother, Tanner. Theriot had been living in the Ernest house for several weeks, according to Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard.
The self-proclaimed mother of the family, Summer and her little brother were glued at the hip. Accepting the fact that they are leaving this world together is “too much to ask” of DeYoung.
Rhonda Champagne, mother of the two children, recalls reading a post on Facebook about the shooting. She says she reposted it, not realizing her own children were the victims.
Champagne says she was at her mother’s house when she got the news. “I got outside, a truck pulls up and a man says ‘are you Rhonda?’"
That’s when shock, pain, and grief began to overwhelm the family.
DeYoung, Billy’s sister, says missing what would’ve been her brother’s last visit to her home will always be in the back of her mind.
“I’m never going to get that back,” DeYoung says.
Evelyn Sing, the kids' grandmother, says the next step is especially grueling.
“We’re going to have to look at three coffins,” Sing said. “It’s bad enough one, but we’re going to have to look at three.”
Champagne says her teenage son, Hunter, will be lost without his siblings.
“A 16-year-old son that lost his brother and sister and his dad. How is he going to get through this?” she said.
Champagne says the last time she spoke to Tanner was just after 5 p.m. the day before the shooting. She told him she loved him, a requirement for getting off the phone.
“Our children may get aggravated. It doesn’t matter. Always hugs and kisses," Champagne said.
DeYoung says she wants them back.
“I would love to tell my niece and nephew that I love them with all my heart,” DeYoung said.
Still trying to wrap their minds around such a tragedy, the family has no choice but to start planning funeral arrangements. They’ve started a GoFundMe page if you’d like to contribute.