Family of woman beaten to death speaks: 'He took treasure'

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Last Wednesday, on March 21, 76-year-old Lovie Variste's family was turned upside down. "He took a sister, a mother, a friend," said the victim's sister, Betty Johnson.

Family members say Variste had 78 nieces and nephews, 58 great nieces and nephews, and 12 siblings. "Why, why did you do this?" Johnson asked.

The Baton Rouge Police Department says 49-year-old Eric Augustus admitted to beating Variste with wooden objects after smoking mojo. "It was horrifying," said Shellie Birch, the victim's younger sister.

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Augustus says he was in a relationship with the woman that's 27 years his senior and had been living with her for five months. The family says they're here to set the record straight. "Why does he think a lady like this would go to somebody like that?" Birch said. "That's strictly out of our character."

Family members say Variste did know the alleged killer, all because kindness was her biggest weakness. "She was a sweet, kind, loving person, just like her name," Johnson said.

They say after Variste's husband died in November of 2017, she met Augustus. The family says Variste noticed the alleged killer was down on his luck, so she tried to help him by paying him for odd jobs around the house. "He saw a little job that needed to be done and took advantage of it," Johnson said. "He took something from us," she said. "He took treasure."

"I don't understand why he would take somebody's life like that, after helping him," Birch said. "It's not right for him to take a kind person like this and just destroy," she said.

Family members say right now, they're focused on fighting for justice. "If he gets out of this... something is wrong with the law system," Birch said. "We want him to stay there without parole."

They're fighting for a woman they say would put the needs of others before her own. "She loved people," Birch said. "Even if she didn't know you, she would help you."

"We've got to pray to try and forgive him," Johnson said. "It's a hard thing, very hard."

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