LaBonte & LaFleur

Montgomery County, Texas
Date of Crime:  June 8, 1997

Lonnie LaBonte and Russell LaFleur were convicted of the murders of Misty Morgan and Sarah Cleary.  LaBonte knew Morgan because she was the girlfriend of his friend, Gerald Barton.  LaFleur was a young man who stayed at LaBonte's residence for about two weeks around the time of the murders.  During a police interrogation, LaFleur confessed to witnessing LaBonte commit the murders.  He said the confession was coerced because police had put a syringe to his arm and threatened to kill him while making it appear that he killed himself with an overdose of drugs.

Later evidence directly linked another suspect, Gabriel Saxton, to the murders, but police refused to charge him.  He had accompanied the victims on the night of their murders, been with them at the scene of the crime prior to their murders, and admitted robbing them of their personal property following their murders.  He even admitted stealing Cleary's boots from her corpse.  At trial, Saxton and LaBonte's girlfriend, Melissa Brannon, testified that the defendants drove up a dirt road in a pickup truck to the victims' car.  Brannon said she was riding with the defendants in the pickup.  After killing the victims the defendants then backed down the road in reverse.  The defendants allegedly returned later, after Saxton had time to rob the victims, and they set fire to the victims' car with their bodies inside.

One problem with the witnesses' testimony is that crime scene photos failed to show any tire tracks left by the defendants' truck.  Photos showed only two sets of tire tracks, one from the victims' car and another from an investigating officer's police car.  If the witnesses' testimony were true, there should have been four additional sets of tire tracks, one for every time the defendants' truck went up or down the road.

There are other problems with the case:  (1) Saxton still had wounds from the night of the crime, including a noticeable limp, three months after the crime.  In contrast, LaBonte had no wounds when questioned 11 days after the crime.  (2) Saxton had given police many different stories about the night of the murders.  (3) The murders occurred in Conroe, Texas, but LaBonte's cellphone records indicate that he was in or near his residence in New Waverly, Texas at the time.  (4) Affidavits have been presented from third parties who say Saxton admitted to them that he had an undisclosed plea deal.  Brannon also admitted she had an undisclosed understanding with the prosecutor.  The understanding was not directly stated in order to allow her to deny it.  LaBonte and LaFleur are currently serving life sentences.  [2/07]

________________________________

References:  Justice: DeniedCourt Actions

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Southeast Texas Cases, Favorite Case Stories