The widow, son and brother of slain Louisiana State Trooper Steven Vincent gave emotional testimony Wednesday of how the loss of their loved one has profoundly affected them.
A jury found Kevin Daigle guilty of first-degree murder Tuesday in the fatal shooting of Vincent in 2015.
As the penalty phase (which is expected to last a few days) of Daigle's trial got under way, prosecutors and the defense gave opening statements before Vincent's family testified. His family and friends have filled the courtroom every day of the trial.
The state is seeking the death penalty; the defense has pleaded for life in prison for Daigle.
Prosecutor Jacob Johnson told jurors that because Daigle wanted to evade responsibility for his actions, he killed Vincent, who was a "combat veteran, a state trooper, a professional, a brother, a father, and a loyal and loving husband."
The jury also heard from defense attorney Kyla Romanach, who acknowledged the pain the Vincent family has had to endure and she called the family "beautiful." She asked jurors to listen with their hearts and told them a death sentence should be a last resort.
Katherine Vincent described an idyllic life she shared with her husband and their son, Ethan, before Steven Vincent was killed.
She said she and her husband got married in 2003 and when their son came along a couple of years later, "he was the light of our lives."
"We just had a happy little life," she said, adding that in the four years since his death, she has not been able to put away any of his belongings. "His razor is right where he left it and his tennis shoes are still right by the back door," she said.
"We are front-row Catholics and that's how our marriage and daily lives are. When they were preparing to close his casket, I was asked if I wanted his rosary and I struggled with that but I just couldn't take it from him."
Composed but crying softly at times throughout her testimony, she recalled what her day was like on the Sunday her husband was killed.
"On that morning, I was at home getting ready for Mass and Steven came home (from work) for a few minutes just to say ‘hi' and give me a kiss. Those were the kinds of things he did on a regular basis."
That afternoon, a state trooper showed up at her home and told her there had been an accident. "At first, I thought maybe he had been in a car accident. When I got to the hospital room and saw Steven it was horrifying because when I saw him just a few hours before he was perfect."
Several jurors wiped away tears as a slide show of the Vincent family moved across a screen showing photos of Steven Vincent with Ethan when he was a baby, the three of them smiling on beach vacations, and Katherine and Steven after an anniversary dinner.
Keith Vincent, chief of police of Iowa, La., and Steven Vincent's older brother, testified through both tears and laughter as he recalled special times with his brother over the years as well as how proud Vincent was to be a state trooper.
"Our entire family works in law enforcement or in the justice field," he said.
"Steven had a passion for his job and he would get big loads of dope off of the streets and that was his way of helping people. He was extremely goal-oriented and was always setting new goals. Steven took a lot of pride in his job and would shine his work shoes and keep his uniform creased, and always kept his unit looking sharp."
Looking at a photo of Vincent that was displayed, he started crying and said, "That's my brother. I was so proud of my little brother and it's been just terrible since losing Steven."
Ethan, who was 9 years old when his father died, took the stand and in a composed and articulate manner, talked of the love he had for his dad.
"My dad and I would watch cop shows, play football, go fishing, and play Xbox games," he said. "We would watch ‘Adam 12' before bed."
Ethan recalled times when he and his dad would go running together. "One time, we were at a race and he leaned over and told me, ‘You can do it,' and I ran for the finish line and came in first in my age group. After running, we would always go to Popeye's. That was his favorite."
The father-son duo also enjoyed fishing and Ethan said they would often fish for hours on a Saturday. "Sometimes I'll go fishing and I think about my dad," he said. "It's a time of reflection."
He said for his mother and for himself as well as Vincent's entire family, losing their loved one "was like our whole life just crumbled to the ground."
Prosecutor Lea Hall asked him what he would say if he could see his father again.
"If I could see my dad, I would tell him I love and miss him and for him not to leave again," he said, crying. "But I know that can't happen."