The man charged with capital murder in the Feb. 1 shooting death of Hancock County Sheriff’s deputy Lt. Michael Boutte has now also been charged with several additional crimes, including child molestation, animal cruelty, witness intimidation, and contributing to the delinquency of minors.
In a preliminary hearing in the murder case on Thursday, Hancock County Court Judge Trent Favre determined that “Based on the evidence presented today, I believe there is probable cause” to proceed in the case, which will now go to a grand jury.
During the hearing, County Prosecutor Olen Anderson extensively questioned Master Sgt. Jason Gazzo, the leader of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the case.
Gazzo testified that on the day of the shooting, Boutte and Deputy Braxton Manuel were called to the scene as a “welfare concern” after Joseph Michael Rohrbacker allegedly made “suicidal threats.”
“To the best of my knowledge, the defendant … had become verbally combative with friends and family and started making suicidal threats toward himself and … sliced the family dog’s throat.”
Boutte and Braxton first stopped at Rohrbacker’s brother’s home a short distance away to get more information before proceeding to the scene, Gazzo said.
Boutte reached the scene first, he said, and “When Boutte pulled into the yard, he was immediately met by gunfire from the defendant.”
When Manuel arrived on the scene, Gazzo said, “The defendant fired a shot at deputy Manuel, striking his patrol vehicle.”
The defendant then allegedly fired a shot at a neighbor who was walking by, allowing Manuel a moment to get out of his car and grab his rifle.
Manuel ordered Rohrbacker to put down his weapon, but the defendant then pointed it back at the deputy.
“Deputy Manuel fired two rounds, striking the defendant’s abdomen,” Gazzo said.
Manuel was then able to approach Rohrbacker and kick the shotgun away, Gazzo said. However, Manuel still had to use a Taser on the defendant to get him under control, Gazzo said.
Both Boutte and Rohrbacker were airlifted to a Louisiana hospital, where Boutte was pronounced dead.
Gazzo said Rohrbacker “stated he had attempted suicide by cop and he admitted to randomly shooting at the deputy,” but insisted that he hadn’t intended to actually kill Boutte.
Defense attorney Frank P. Wittman asked Gazzo whether Rohrbacker had actually said the words “suicide by cop.” Gazzo said he didn’t use that exact phrase, but said it in words “to that effect.”
Favre denied defense attorney Wittman’s request for bond in the case, and remanded Rohrbacker back into the custody of the Harrison County Adult Detention Center.
“The hearing went about like we thought it would go,” Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam said after the hearing Thursday. “It’s pretty cut-and-dry. Olen did a great job of laying out the facts and MBI’s investigator, Master Sgt. Gazzo, did a great job, too.”
Adam said that although Rohrbacker is being held in Harrison County, the additional charges — including three counts of child molestation, one count of animal cruelty, three counts of intimidating a witness and three counts of contributing to delinquency — were filed in Hancock County. The contributing to delinquency charges stem from Rohrbacker’s alleged killing of the dog in front of children, Adam said.