Among the 32,400 or so souls living in Houma, Louisiana and the surrounding area there may be someone keeping a very ugly secret.
Houma is 57 miles southwest of New Orleans, and it's data indicates that it is normally a pretty decent place to live, if you are one of those crazy folk that find the humidity and heat, insects and alligators endemic to coastal regions of the south charming. Seriously though, in the 2000 census the women outnumbered the men, something that might please single menfolk heading to Houma, the median age of the residents was a young 34 years, and in 2001 and 2002 the number of serious crimes such as murder was very low [source: City-data.com].
Now it looks like someone is killing men in Houma, and also perhaps in neighboring parishes and cities such as Kenner, about 40 miles down the road. Police in both cities have begun to compare notes to see if the linkage between 5 Houma deaths and 3 in Kenner is solid.
Out of the 8 unsolved homicides, all but one man was killed by asphyxiation. In the three Kenner murders, the victims were found barefooted, prompting the Kenner authorities to dub the killings the 'shoeless murders.' [source: article from nola.com, published April 30].
The links between the murders are fairly strong:
- All the victims were men, living what police euphemistically call "high-risk lifestyles" - usually this means drug use, prostitution, petty crime.
- Strangling has been the common method of asphyxiation.
- The age range has been narrow, all of the men apparently under 30.
- Several were found within just a few miles of one another.
Houma police believe that the deaths of Anoka Jones, Datrell Woods, Michael Barnett, Leon Paul Lirette and August Terrell Watkins are solidly linked, and are investigating the most recent body found in an irrigation canal in LaFourche Parish along state Highway 307 as another in the series. This victim was found late last week. Police have only said that the body was that of a white male between the ages of 20 and 30, and noted that this body makes the fourth found in that area since 2000.