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Suspect accused in murder of Hancock County deputy now facing 8 new charges

Updated: Mar. 25, 2021 at 5:44 PM CDT
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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX) - The man accused of killing Lt. Michael Boutte now faces eight new charges after making his preliminary court appearance Thursday in Hancock County. We also learned more about the events leading up to that tragic moment.

Hancock County Judge Trent Favre ruled there was enough evidence against 30-year-old Joseph Rohrbacker to send the case to the grand jury, saying that he found probable cause that Rohrbacker likely committed the crime.

Joseph Michael Rohrbacker, 30, is charged with capital murder in the Feb. 1 shooting that...
Joseph Michael Rohrbacker, 30, is charged with capital murder in the Feb. 1 shooting that killed Hancock County Lt. Michael Boutte. On Thursday, new details in that investigation came out in court and, in addition to the murder charge, Rohrbacker is now facing eight new charges.(Harrison County Sheriff's Dept.)

As previously reported on Feb. 1, Rohrbacker is accused of fatally shooting Lt. Michael Boutte, but new details about the moments before gunfire erupted were revealed in court Thursday.

The lone witness brought by prosecutor Olen Anderson was the chief investigator, Master Sgt. Jason Gazzo with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations. Gazzo said the investigation showed that the incident began over allegations that Rohrbacker had molested younger family members. However, before deputies arrived, he said Rohrbacker had cut his dog’s throat.

Gazzo told the court that Lt. Boutte was shot twice and died from a shotgun blast to his head, while he was still in his car. He also said Deputy Manuel, who was trailing Lt. Boutte in his patrol car, was also shot at.

In addition, Gazzo said that Rohrbacker told him he was just randomly shooting at deputies without intent to hit anyone, and that he was hoping to commit suicide by police when he couldn’t do it himself.

Defense attorney Philip Wittmann said this about Rohrbacker.

Lt. Michael A. Boutte Sr. died in the line of the duty on Feb. 1, 2021. He was 57 years old.
Lt. Michael A. Boutte Sr. died in the line of the duty on Feb. 1, 2021. He was 57 years old.(Hancock County Sheriff's Dept.)

“Very weak. I don’t know if the cognitive skills are there,” said Wittmann. “I don’t know if he quite understands the gravity of his situation. At this time, I think it’s clear that Mr. Rohrbacker had a psychotic event that day and we just need to get him in to see a doctor and see what goes from there.”

In addition to the capital murder charge, Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam said eight new charges have been brought against Rohrbacker.

Three counts of child molestation; three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, because the children were present with the dog’s throat was cut, one count of witness tampering; and one count of aggravated cruelty to an animal.

Rohrbacker will be back in court on April 14 for his preliminary hearing on those charges.

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