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Thread: Private Investigator forms non-profit to handle cold cases

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    Private Investigator forms non-profit to handle cold cases

    Ever wonder how to use your private investigator skills to help victims in cold cases . . . and derive an income for yourself as a non-profit PI?

    Here is one PI's story:


    'I'm going to keep fighting for what's right'
    Investigator on a mission to solve cold cases

    Tucked under part-time private investigator Stephen Menard’s arm is a stack of bright red laminated posters.

    At the top, the poster screams, “UNSOLVED MURDER.” There’s also a place noted – Iberia, St. Martin or Vermilion parish. A picture of the victim usually shows them smiling. Each poster has information about the victim’s death and how to contact law enforcement or Menard.

    “It’s bringing something to life every day,” he said. “Hopefully, someone will say, ‘I’m tired of it’ and someone will call.”

    Menard has created more than 30 posters in the last year. Of those unsolved murders and missing person cases, 16 are from Iberia Parish.

    More on cold cases: Woman pleads for help in solving her father’s murder

    The 58-year-old understands the pain of mothers whose children were murdered but have no answers why or by whom. He knows they feel neglected by the detectives who are working their children's cases.

    Mother's Day weekend, he organized an event to allow the women to cry out for justice for their slain children.

    Menard remembers the 14 years he spent working narcotics and gang cases with the St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office. It was a job that could have ended with him dead in the street. But people respected him, he said.

    And for that, Menard feels an obligation to give more to his community.

    "I was taught to be aggressive and when I believed in something, not to stop," he said. "And there are these unsolved murders in these stacks of papers. They were lost. They need to be found."

    The first was a poster for Chazton Guidry, a 16-year-old who was shot and killed in 2018 in Abbeville. It had been months since his death and there were no arrests.

    People were scared to talk, Menard said. It’s a problem Abbeville Police have faced when trying to solve murders, so bad that they held a press conference asking for people to come forward in August.

    “I wasn’t getting nowhere with this and I really shook up everybody’s tree,” the Kaplan native said. “So I made a poster and put ‘unsolved murder.”

    The poster started circulating on Facebook and around the city. People started talking. A man was arrested in connection with the shooting nearly a year after Chazton’s death.

    It was the beginning of the Justice for Unsolved Murder Victims/Missing Person Project, something Menard works on in his spare time. More families started reaching out to Menard.

    And he made more posters.

    The Baby Jane Doe case was different. One phone call Menard received came from a friend in New Iberia. Don't forget about Baby Jane Doe, she said.

    The newborn was found abandoned in a trash can in Jeanerette outside Bob’s Car Wash on Jan. 24, 1994. Umbilical cord and placenta still attached, she died of hypothermia when the temperatures dipped into the low 40s.

    The coroner at the time said the 6-pound baby was alive when she was abandoned. She was sucking her thumb when she died.

    Menard typically won't make a poster for someone whose family hasn't contacted him. He doesn't ever want to surprise a family. But with Baby Jane Doe, this was different.

    “Her, there was nothing to it,” Menard said. “Someone had to take the wheel. And everything else started falling in place."

    The poster was designed like the rest. “UNSOLVED BABY MURDER, Jeanerette, Louisiana,” printed at the top. A picture of Baby Jane Doe’s headstone and a drawing of a child with wings were placed in the center. A snippet of her story was shared.

    “Any person that would like to provide information about Baby Jane Doe’s mother, please call…,” was posted on the bottom of the poster.

    Like the others, the poster started to spread.

    DNA tests help police find leads:
    In June, Shera Broussard LaPoint heard about the Justice for Unsolved Murder Victims/Missing Person Project in June. She has a passion for genetic genealogy, which uses DNA to help determine familial relationships. It’s become popular with companies such as Ancestry and 23andMe.

    A friend who also enjoys genetic genealogy told her about Menard and what he was doing. It turned out LaPoint and Menard knew each other from high school. The two were talking about the project and LaPoint told Menard more about what she did.

    For LaPoint, it started as a hobby, tracing her Cajun origins from her home in Bunkie. But it grew into something bigger. She’s used her understanding of centiMorgans, which can determine how closely two people are related, to help create family trees for friends, family and even adoptees searching for relatives.

    She helped the League City, Texas, police department trace the family line of an unidentified Cajun woman who had been killed in 1991. Using genetic genealogy, LaPoint was able to help find a woman whose cousin had gone missing the same year as the unidentified woman.

    Police were later able to identify Donna Marie Gonsoulin Prudhomme.

    “As a genealogist, this is a tool. Just like we have a census record, just like we have a birth certificate,” she said. “I am not going to be the person to solve a crime. It’s just a lead.”

    Menard told LaPoint about Baby Jane Doe. They reached out to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office. With DNA, they could trace the newborn’s family line.

    They thought they may have to exhume the body, but Acadiana Labs had meticulously kept a sample. It was re-examined and a DNA profile was developed. That profile was matched with someone who had a familial relationship to the child in a combined DNA index system.

    'The wheels of justice have just started’:
    Baby Jane Doe’s mother was found. Sonia S. Charles, 50, was arrested in connection with the newborn’s death.

    “I am so very thankful that we have been able to give closure to that baby and that community,” LaPoint said. “People attached themselves to this baby in Jeanerette. It honestly brought a community together at this time that was struggling.”

    But in Menard’s mind, it’s just the beginning.

    “I feel excited,” he said. “But the wheels of justice have just started.”

    And there are more cold cases to be solved.

    • An Abbeville woman, Rita “Theresa” Jordan, who was stabbed to death on April 26, 2012, inside her home.
    • Bertha Mae “Ba” Hill, a New Iberia woman who was shot on April 22, 2017, through the front door of her home.
    • A St. Martinville man, Casey Alexander, who was killed during a home invasion on Oct. 5, 2014.


    “I’m going to keep fighting for what’s right,” Menard said. “I’m an activist. And I keep on fighting, keep on pushing.”

    Source:
    https://justiceforhomicidevictims.org/
    https://www.theadvertiser.com



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    John Sanderson is offline Lifetime Member

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    Re: Private Investigator forms non-profit to handle cold cases

    I've been contemplating opening a non-profit investigations agency for Domestic Violence Victims for quite some time. I've reached out to the agency in the post above.

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