Louisiana police are analyzing evidence to determine whether Bethany Arceneaux's family members, who stormed an abandoned home last week where she was being held and shot the suspect who was stabbing her, committed a justifiable homicide.
Scott Thomas, 29, was found shot Friday at a vacant house in the Lafayette area, about 140 miles west of New Orleans, and autopsy results are pending, Lafayette Parish Sheriff's spokesman Kip Judice told The Associated Press.
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Judice said the victim, Arceneaux, also 29, was rescued from the same home.
Thomas allegedly attacked Arceneaux with a knife and one of Arceneaux's family members shot Thomas to stop him, according to Judice.
Judice said the shooter — whom authorities are not identifying — apparently acted to save the life of Arceneaux. He said Arceneaux, who is the mother of Thomas' child, had been cut with a knife several times.
"We have interviewed the shooter in the case and we did not arrest him," Judice said by telephone from Lafyette.
However, Judice said that because a death is involved, pending autopsy results and other evidence must go to the district attorney for a decision on whether any other action — such as a grand jury hearing — is necessary.
Louisiana law states that a killing is justifiable when it is "reasonably believed" such intervention is necessary to protect another person.
Arceneaux was abducted from a Lafayette daycare center Wednesday evening after Thomas arrived and confronted Arceneaux, according to Lafayette police.
Police said Thomas is believed to have forced Arceneaux into his car. Their child, about 2 years old, was left behind unharmed.
On Friday, Judice said friends and family searched an area along a road where Thomas' car had been found after the abduction and entered a vacant house when they believed they heard screams.
"We went and got her in that house. We kicked doors down. It was like a movie unfolding," Arceneaux's brother, Ryan Arceneaux, was quoted as saying by The Advertiser of Lafeyette on Friday.
Video taken by the newspaper showed police, who also were searching the area, converging on the house after hearing shots. Later, a sobbing Arceneaux, blood visible on her legs and hand, was seen being carried to a vehicle.
She was released from a hospital over the weekend.
Judice said police were on the property at the same time as the family members and saw no reason to discourage them from looking for Arceneaux.
"The thought was, we were searching for any evidence that they were still in the area: footprints in the mud, a piece of clothing anything like that."
He described the property as about 4 to 5 acres, including a hay field and the small house, amid a cluster of trees. Police had searched the outside and seen no sign of forced entry and had no reason to enter, Judice said.
The family just happened to come upon Arceneaux first, he said. "It was all timing."
"While we were looking on one side, they were looking in another and they came upon her," Cpl. Paul Mouton of the Lafayette Police Department was quoted by The Advertiser as saying. "It just so happens where they were looking was where she was found."
The Advertiser reported that Bethany Arceneaux had filed a complaint with police on June 15, saying Thomas locked her in a house and threatened to kill both her and her son. A protective order against Thomas was issued two days later, the newspaper said.
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