Confessed murderer: Offenders can change

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

Larry Benoit calls himself a homeowner, as well as a successful businessman, running a dog-training service and a gate-access

service.

He is also a confessed murderer.

Benoit was 16 when he pleaded guilty to taking part in the 1981 murder of 38-year-old Lake Charles cab driver Gene Madden.

He was also 16 when the crime took place.

Benoit’s life without parole sentence was commuted in 1995 by Gov. Edwin Edwards, clearing the way for him to be released

from prison on Jan. 9, 2004.

Benoit’s case has again come to light because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in July that says lower courts can’t blanketly

administer life without parole to juveniles. They must consider the juvenile’s age and circumstances during sentencing.

“I’ve done a lot of things that was

wrong,” Benoit, 47, said. “I feel that a lot of juveniles and lot of

kids do things on

the spur of the moment. They do things that they are used to

doing, depending on the environment they grew up in. And my brother

and I were definitely a product of the environment we grew up in.”

His brother, Ramus Benoit, 49, was a defendant in the case, as was Howard Vaughn. While Vaughn pleaded guilty to armed robbery

and received a 35-year prison term — the judge said he did not fire the shots, nor touch the body — Ramus Benoit, who was

a month shy of his 18th birthday at the time, was found guilty of first-degree murder and given a life sentence.

Under the Supreme Court ruling, Ramus Benoit is to be resentenced May 10, with his youth and circumstances considered.

Larry Benoit said people can change — even people who’ve committed heinous crimes.

“Every person deserves an opportunity

when they fail; some people fail worse than others,” he said. “With

proper guidance,

educational opportunities, occupational opportunities, time, a

person can change, and I believe myself, as well as my brother,

has changed. We are no longer the persons that we were 32 years

ago.”

Larry Benoit said that while he was in prison he “took every opportunity and advantage of the penal system’s rehabilitation

program,” rattling off a list of courses — welding, auto mechanics, sheet metal, air condition restoration, paralegal.

“I am to this day very sorry about what took place, and I truly wish that I could take it back. Unfortunately, we cannot,”

he said.

“I would very much love to be able to

help kids in circumstances that we were — to help them understand that

the life they’re

in is not the life that they’re always going to have and that they

can change direction, they can change the way the are if

they had a guiding hand, if someone could help them.”