Sporting a fresh black eye, Alan Dupras pleaded not guilty Thursday to murdering his wife, beloved Kingsburg school principal Jennifer Dupras, and her 88-year-old mother, Cynthia Houk, last December inside Houk’s home in northwest Fresno.
Dupras, 58, showed up for his arraignment in Fresno Superior Court wearing a red jail jumpsuit and shackles. His left eye was bruised from an altercation with a correctional officer, Fresno defense lawyer Mark Broughton told Judge Michael Idiart.
The arraignment was brief but eventful.
Idiart granted prosecutor Brian Hutchins’ motion to hold Dupras in jail without bail. Dupras originally was held in jail in lieu of $3.14 million bail.
The judge denied bail, saying there is a potential that if Dupras is released he could harm others.
Idiart then granted Dupras’ request to a delay his preliminary hearing, which will determine whether he should stand trial on the murder charges, as well as arson and vandalism charges.
Broughton asked for the delay to prepare a motion that will ask Idiart to reconsider his decision regarding bail.
Outside court, Broughton said Dupras has a constitutional right to bail because he has no criminal record and has strong family ties in the community. But Broughton also acknowledged that Idiart had a right to invoke no bail because Dupras could face the death penalty.
Broughton also told reporters that the District Attorney’s Office has a conflict in prosecuting Dupras because he is Assistant District Attorney Jeff Dupras’ cousin. Jeff Dupras is high-ranking member of District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp’s administration.
“We plan to litigate this issue,” said Broughton, who is being assisted by Fresno attorney Sally Vecchiarelli.
Regarding Dupras’ bruised eye, Broughton said Dupras’ face hit a wall and that a correctional officer was involved in the incident that led to Dupras wearing a butterfly bandage in court.
If Dupras didn’t comply with an order, pushing him into a wall could be construed as excessive force, Broughton said.
Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said Dupras was injured while he was being booked into jail Tuesday. Dupras had become uncooperative with correctional officers and “attempted to walk away from them after he refused to follow their instructions,” Botti said.
Officers stopped Dupras from leaving “by placing him against a wall. During this action, Dupras hit his left eyebrow area on the wall causing a small cut. He was medically treated; no stitches were necessary,” Botti said.
Dupras will return to court Oct. 18, when Idiart plans to hear Broughton’s bail motion.
Authorities contend jealousy may have driven Dupras to allegedly commit the premeditated murders.
At a news conference Tuesday, Sheriff Margaret Mims said investigators are looking at the couple’s divorce and Jennifer’s new relationship as a possible motive. Jennifer Dupras filed for divorce in October 2017.
In his motion for no bail for Dupras, Hutchins said: “I am informed and believe that Dupras targeted and killed his estranged wife and her mother due to Jennifer divorcing him.”
A criminal complaint charges him with two counts of murder and two counts of arson. Five days before the double slaying, prosecutors alleged Dupras torched the Alliance de Française social club on North First Street near Shaw Avenue in Fresno, where Jennifer Dupras served as president. Her new boyfriend also had ties to the club.
Dupras also is accused of setting Houk’s car on fire in front of her house on Nov. 22. In addition, he faces a felony charge of possession of assault weapons and a misdemeanor vandalism charge for allegedly damaging property where the French social club was housed. In his no-bail motion, Hutchins contends that on Nov. 4 Dupras put glue in the key hole to a door to the building.
Prosecutors have not said if they plan to seek the death penalty. If prosecutors decline to seek the death penalty, Dupras would likely face life in prison with the possibility of parole, if convicted.
Jennifer Dupras, 55, was the principal at Washington Elementary School in Kingsburg and had recently retired before she was killed. Houk was the widow of a former intelligence officer with the U.S. Air Force.
The victims were found dead Dec. 11, 2017, inside Houk’s home on Colonial Avenue near Maroa and Sierra avenues after a friend asked law enforcement to do a welfare check. The criminal complaint accuses Alan Dupras of killing them on Dec. 9. Both women were shot in the head.
“There were no signs of a struggle or forced entry or of any property being taken,” Hutchins said in his motion.
Dupras was arrested Tuesday outside his Kingsburg home following a 10-month investigation. After his arrest, Alan Dupras declined to be interviewed by detectives and invoked his right to an attorney.
In making the arrest, sheriff’s detectives spent months collecting surveillance footage from homes and businesses in the areas around the sites of the double homicide and both arson fires. In a prepared statement, investigators said a white crew cab Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck was captured in footage in “every video near the crime scenes.”
“Alan Dupras owned this same type of pickup truck, which was later recovered and processed for evidence,” deputies said in the statement.
Hutchins’ motion says Dupras initially denied being at or near Houk’s home at the time of the slayings. But recently received evidence — data from Dupras’ truck navigation system — places “Dupras in the area of the crime during the time the murders occurred,” Hutchins’ motion says.
Deputies, during the course of the probe, seized multiple firearms belonging to Alan Dupras at his parents’ Clovis home but said the murder weapon has not been found.
The estranged couple’s daugther, Alison Dupras, has long suspected her father was responsible for both deaths from the beginning. In July, she organized a “silent sit-in” at the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, urging prosecutors to file charges in the case.
Alison told detectives her father verbally abused her mother and, prior to the slayings, she believed her father might commit suicide, according to information in an affidavit in the case. She said her parents’ marriage was colored by domestic violence that never was reported to law enforcement. It was her mother’s decision to leave her father, she said.