Hancock Judge Trent Favre on Thursday ordered a Perkinston man to be held without bond until a preliminary hearing next week for the Feb. 1 shooting death of Hancock County Sheriff’s Lt. Michael Boutte Sr.
Officers of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday charged Joseph Michael Rohrbacker, 30, with capital murder In Boutte’s death.
“You have the right to a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is reasonable cause that a crime has been committed and that you committed it,” Favre told Rohrbacker during his initial appearance in Hancock County Court on Thursday.
Favre had ordered extra security for the court proceeding. Rohrbacker was escorted into the courtroom shackled and outfitted with a bullet-proof vest.
Favre said attorney Frank P. Wittmann would be appointed as Rohrbacker’s counsel.
Rohrbacker seemed confused when the judge asked him some basic questions, and said he wasn’t sure of his own address, but his wife should know it.
Favre informed him that since it was a capital murder case — which could carry a “penalty of life in prison with our without parole or death” — he would be held without bond, at least until the March 25 hearing.
Wittmann asked Favre to require the Harrison County jail staff to ensure Rohrbacker gets his required medication, which he said has not yet been administered.
Boutte was responding to an emergency disturbance call at Rohrbacker’s residence on Earl Ladner Road and had just exited his vehicle when the suspect — described by family members as schizophrenic and with impaired mental faculties — allegedly opened fire on the deputy with a shotgun. A second deputy who arrived on-scene after Boutte exchanged gunfire with Rohrbacker, wounding him.
Rohrbacker was airlifted to a Louisiana hospital, where he had remained, recovering from his wounds, until MBI picked him up on Tuesday and extradited him to the Harrison County Adult Detention Facility.
The MBI, led by MSG Jason Gazzo, is leading the investigation, since it involves the death of a Hancock County sheriff’s official.
“We’re just happy he’s being held on no bond, and we’ll see him again at the preliminary hearing next week,” Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam said after the initial appearance Thursday.
Adam said that even though his office is not in charge of the investigation, he plans to attend every one of the court proceedings in the case.
“It’s one of our people — one of our deputies — and we owe it to him and everyone else to show support for our organization,” Adam said. “We’ll follow it every step of the way.”
Adam said last month that Boutte’s death “has rocked this community. He was well thought of. … There’s been an outpouring of support for him and his family and for us here at the sheriff’s office. It’s really touching. … "Mike was an incredible deputy and more so a fine person. He was a mentor to our younger deputies and I know he will be greatly missed by his peers. You never saw him without a smile or a positive attitude. I can't begin to describe the heart break we are all experiencing right now.”