Mom Charged With Murdering Estranged Husband After He Claimed She Was Abusive in New Custody Hearing

Kayla Coutee
Rapides Parish Sheriff's Department

As any parents going through a split can attest, custody arrangements almost always force emotions to boil over. But for one couple in Alexandria, Louisiana, a dispute over custody turned deadly when Kayla Jean Giles allegedly shot her estranged husband, Thomas Coutee Jr., during a custody exchange of the daughter they share. And new evidence suggests a motive, thanks to a motion recently filed by Coutee's lawyer asking for a new custody arrangement due to Giles allegedly being abusive to Coutee during their marriage.

  • According to police reports, Giles shot her husband in the outer parking lot of the Alexandria Walmart.

    Talk of the Town reported that the incident happened around 11:15 in the morning September 8. Giles, 31, had come from her home in a gated community of townhouses beside the Walmart where she and 30-year-old Coutee were meant to exchange custody of their daughter, whose identity is being withheld from the public. During the exchange, Giles allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Coutee in the chest. Coutee and Giles' daughter, along with Coutee's two other children from previous relationships, were waiting in the car during the attack, though all children were reportedly uninjured. 

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  • A witness at the scene said that another patron of the store had attempted to perform CPR on Coutee when police arrived but to no avail.

    By the time police had arrived on the scene, Coutee couldn't be revived. His three children were taken to Alexandria Police headquarters, where the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services made arrangements for them to be released to other family members. 

    Giles was identified as the shooter in the incident and was taken into custody at the Rapides Parish Detention Center, where she was booked on charges of second-degree murder and her bail was set at $500,000.

  • At the time of the incident, police had no evidence of motive for the shooting, but new evidence implies that Giles had been abusive to Coutee.

    In a separate article published by Talk of the Town, on August 28 Coutee's lawyer, Kenneth Doggett Jr., filed a motion for a new trial because a past ruling on August 20 for joint custody of the couple's daughter was "against the law and evidence."

    Doggett claimed that the ruling made by 9th Judicial District Court Judge Patricia Koch was unjust because Giles had a "history of domestic abuse" against her husband, which Coutee and Doggett had presented during a custody hearing August 13. He wrote in the motion that Louisiana state law creates a presumption "that no parent who has a history of perpetuating family violence shall be awarded sole or joint custody of the children." On August 23, Doggett also filed a protection order against Giles in Coutee's honor. But according to court reports, all three attempts to serve it had been unsuccessful.

  • The couple married October 24, 2014, in Waco, Texas, but were separated by February 2, 2018.

    Coutee had not mentioned abuse in his custody trials until the most recent motion for a new trial, but the 30-year-old did file a complaint against Giles to the Rapides Parish Police Department on May 28. He alleged that Giles had slapped the left side of his face when he went to give his daughter a hug goodbye before going to work. He told the deputy on duty that the two had been arguing about Giles' boyfriend, whom Coutee claimed was a drug addict, and about Giles' desire to move when she let her hand fly at his face.

    Coutee was able to produce a photo of his face, which a deputy at the Rapides Parish PD described "redness on the left side of his jaw line below his left ear." He also showed the deputy a screenshot of a text, where Giles allegedly wrote to a friend that she "knocked the sh*t out of Thomas. It felt good tho."

    Coutee said he wanted the complaints on file but did not want to press charges at the time. Koch had set the trial for Doggett's motion for October 8, but no court date has been set for Giles in light of the shooting.

abuse death