Saturday, September 15, 2012

Murder Close to Home

My  husband's friend was murdered during Hurricane Isaac.

Noah worked and lived at a funeral home. He was a personable guy, interesting, and an unlikely compadre for my husband. Julio is a big guy, brutish looking. Six foot, 300 lbs, bald, with a goatee, he is a somewhat striking Spanish macho man.

Noah was among a group of locals who frequented a nearby bar and took to our bar as soon as it opened. Julio became friends with many of the new customers, but Noah was one of a few who he spoke to outside of the bar as well.

Noah was gay, but a blender. He fit in with the crowd, easily forgettable until you actually spoke to him.  Noah was also depressed a lot, although I don't know the reason why. I guess working and living at a funeral home does not inspire one to be giddily happy, but I think he may have had other issues. I know he had no significant other, but he did occasionally bring men home with him, which ultimately be his downfall.

When our bar closed, Noah was even more down. He missed having a place to hang out that felt like home, although he did hang out at other bars. Julio would occasionally meet Noah at the bar after it closed to hang out, because he was worried about his friend.

Right before Isaac, Noah left one of his regular bars with a man he had just met.  Sometime that night, the stranger tied Noah to the bed, stabbed him to death, stole his cell phone, and took off in his car.

We had evacuated for the hurricane and Julio called Noah several times to see how he was making out. He received no answer.

About a week later, Noah's body was discovered.  The killer had driven Noah's car to Algiers, on the Westbank of New Orleans and near the funeral home, and set it on fire. He was still using Noah's cell phone, texting people back, acting like he was Noah.  The police were able to find his location, in an attic in a nearby neighborhood, by tracking the cell phone.

The guy confessed.  He will be charged with 2nd degree murder, an automatic life sentence in Louisiana.

Noah was buried this past Monday. It is so odd, because I wasn't really close with him, but had met him and liked him well enough. He was a good guy. He had bought several copies of my books and had me sign them, one set for his sister.  He was at my book launch party, and spoke at length with my sister, who had gone to funeral school before deciding to become a teacher.

Noah didn't have much family. He was 51 years old, his parents were dead, and he had only a sister and a brother.  But the chapel was packed, with friends, people who worked at other funeral homes around town, and people whom he had helped through their own personal tragedies as an employee of Schoen's Funeral Home.

I have known death. All of my grandparents and my father have died in my life time.  As many homicide cases as I have handled as a prosecutor and then as an appellate public defender, some of them horrific and violent, I have only known one other person who was brutally murdered, and that was a girl who was a senior in high school when I was a freshman, and she was murdered by some kind of serial killer in another state years after we graduated. I was barely on a saying hi to her basis  because she was so much ahead of me in school, although I had greatly admired her back then.

When someone dies, I always think about how they now know what lies beyond this earth, and if there is nothing, they are just gone, and nowhere. So while I can't help but think of how much Noah suffered, and what must have been going through his mind when this animal decided to take his life, I also wonder about where he is now, and that he knows what happens when we leave this world.

I often take from real life when I'm writing. True crime especially makes for a good story. This one, though, I think I'm going to leave right where it is, in my mind. 

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