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Perrault has first appearance in court after murder charge

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    ADA T.Wright Barksdale (left), listens as Sheriff Howard Sills (right) discusses the murder charges brought against Eatonton Police Officer Michael Seth Perrault. The press conference was held in the conference room of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning.

An Eatonton police officer who was arrested Wednesday evening on charges of murder in connection to the shooting death of his wife appeared before the Putnam County Chief Magistrate early Thursday morning; a press conference was held by Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills a couple of hours later to discuss the case.

Michael Seth Perrault, 43, of Lake Island Road, Eatonton, was charged with murder around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, Sills said. Perrault was at his sister’s house in Newton County at the time, and Sills said he, Chief Deputy Russell Blenk and Sgt. Bob Rogers went to the Social Circle house to make the arrest.

“He was sitting on the front porch smoking a cigarette when we arrived,” Sills noted.

As has been previously reported by The Eatonton Messenger, Perrault was arrested Tuesday, Jan. 28, on misdemeanor domestic violence-battery charges and released on a $1,500 bond. Chief Magistrate Dorothy J. Adams said the amount of the bond was determined by the fact that the charge was a misdemeanor and could not have been any higher.

During the press conference, Sills said he had talked with Perrault’s wife, Amanda, at the time of the release on bond, and encouraged her to not return home, but she said all was fine.

Eatonton Police Chief Kent Lawrence said, when Perrault was arrested on those domestic violence charges, he immediately went to the jail and formally placed Perrault on administrative leave without pay pending investigation.

Six days later, on Monday, Feb. 3, around 1:30 p.m., Perrault called Chief Lawrence and told him his wife had killed herself. Chief Lawrence did not hang up the phone but grabbed another phone and called Sheriff Sills while Perrault was still talking, Sills said.

Sills called in the GBI Crime Scene Unit to help with processing the scene at the Long Island Road home where the shooting took place. He said the fatal shooting happened in the bedroom, and Perrault was home at the time. The victim was shot in the head one time, he said. Perrault has an 8-year-old daughter from another relationship, who was living with him and Amanda, but the daughter was in school at the time of the shooting. She is now staying with her maternal grandmother, Sills said.

At the first appearance hearing for the murder charge Thursday morning, Perrault entered the room clad in a jail-issued orange jumpsuit and in handcuffs. He sat at the table with his attorney, Bethany Lavigno, of Conyers, while members of his family were seated in chairs lining the wall.

Adams formally read Perrault his charges and told him she could not set bond due to the felony charge; that has to be done by a Superior Court judge, she said.

As Perrault was being escorted back out of the hearing room, his father went up to him and said “Seth, we love you.”

Before coming to work for Eatonton Police Department in November 2018, Perrault had no previous experience in law enforcement, according to Sills, who noted that Perrault had applied for a position at the sheriff’s office in 2018 but was not considered a good candidate for hire due to his work history. He said Perrault was sent to Georgia Peace Officer Mandate Training & Certification by Eatonton Police Department at the time he was hired.

Eatonton Police Chief Kent Lawrence met with Perrault after his most recent arrest and terminated him from his position with the department, Sills said.

The sheriff said he did not know technically how long the couple lived in Putnam County, but the house they lived in, which is listed in Perrault’s father’s name on the tax assessor’s website, was purchased in November 2018.

There have been no domestic violence reports or calls to the couple’s home in Putnam County prior to the one last week, Sills said, noting that he was investigating if such has happened in other counties where they’ve lived. He noted the victim’s family has given some proof to other sources of such happenings, but if that gets out into the public in Putnam, it could harm the prosecution of the case in court because it taints the juror pool. 

Sills said the officer had some previous arrests in other counties, but none of those were domestic violence charges and all were misdemeanors, which does not legally prevent anyone from being hired as a peace officer.

Assistant District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale said he and District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley are working with law enforcement officers, and hope to present the case to a Putnam County grand jury in March.

The case is still under investigation, Sills said.

“Just because you make an arrest, you can’t get your biscuit and go home,” he said. “Even when you have all the ingredients, and you have them mixed and in the pan and in the oven, something else always pops up, so you never stop looking.”

Read next week's edition for more details as the case moves forward.