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Principal Faces Trial For Murder In Slaying Of Coach

January 5, 1986 GMT

LIVINGSTON, Texas (AP) _ A love triangle that swept up a junior high school principal, a secretary and a football coach and allegedly led to murder has rocked the quiet little towns of this part of East Texas.

″All the publicity makes it appear that we are on the worst side of the element of human existence and we’re not,″ school district Superintendent Kenneth Voytek said.

Hurley Fontenot, 48, former principal of Hull-Daisetta Woodson Junior High School, goes on trial Monday, accused of the killing last spring of coach Billy Mac Fleming, 38.

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Police say Fleming was Fontenot’s rival for the affections of Laura Nugent, 36, a teacher’s aide and school secretary both men had dated and hoped to marry.

″All our evidence shows it was a love triangle,″ said Liberty County Sheriff E.W. Applebe. ″There were mutual feelings between him (Fontenot) and Mrs. Nugent, but after a while she turned her affections in other directions and he didn’t particularly like that.″

Residents of Hull, Daisetta and Raywood, once raucous oil boomtowns and now quiet little farm and lumbering communities, were stunned when Fontenot was charged with Fleming’s murder.

″It has made our people look bad, and the people here are good people,″ Voytek said. ″These things happen every day in the big city and little is ever said of it.″

Fontenot, who grew up locally and taught agriculture at the school for 16 years before becoming a principal four years ago, is free on $50,000 bond.

Investigators said Fontenot divorced his wife and wanted to marry Mrs. Nugent, who was divorced, but that she rejected him. She had been dating Fleming for nearly three months and said they planned to marry during summer vacation.

Fleming disappeared on April 12, a Friday, missing a dinner date with Mrs. Nugent. Mrs. Nugent said Fleming seldom was late and, when he was, he always called.

″By Sunday, I knew something was wrong,″ she said. ″It just wasn’t like Billy to go off and not let anyone know where he was going.″

She said she went to Fleming’s apartment in Liberty, about 10 miles away, but found nothing suspicious. She drove by the school and saw Fleming’s pickup truck in the parking lot near the fieldhouse. His briefcase was still in the front seat.

Ten days after Fleming disappeared, his body was found about 50 miles away, in a Polk County forest southwest of Livingston. ″He got two bullets in the back of his head,″ Applebe said.

Fontenot’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin of Houston, said the evidence against his client is circumstantial and that no murder weapon has been found.

Fleming had worked at the school for two years, coaching and teaching mathematics and science. Though he was new to the area, Fleming was well liked by students and quickly was accepted by residents.

Fontenot said he also thought highly of Fleming, describing him as ″one of the most dedicated teachers I’ve ever had.″ The principal said he wept several times over Fleming’s death.

But official suspicion of Fontenot heightened after Mrs. Nugent told investigators she had dated both men. Investigators went back to the forest where the body was found.

A search uncovered vehicle tracks near the body. Bark had been skinned from some nearby pine saplings. Investigators said they found blood stains on Fontenot’s pickup truck and pieces of pine lodged under the chassis.

Fontenot denied he was jealous of Fleming, but Applebe said investigators had ″a number of witnesses who dispute that.″

The school board last summer offered Fontenot $25,000 for his resignation. Members had said he should quit because he engaged in ″gross, immoral conduct″ by continuing to live with his ex-wife after their divorce. Fontenot, who had been on leave for health reasons, resigned.

″I think the people of our community want to put the whole thing to rest,″ Voytek said. ″There has been enough glamorization made of it.″