May 16, 2007
Reported By: Lee Peck
In the two months since her body was found in the Petitjean Canal, the family of 21-year-old Kristen Gary Lopez has been asking who or what could have lead to her death.
"We don't have those answers. We would like those answers. We just need closure and want there to be justice," said Lopez's aunt Murlene Lasage.
The early stages of justice may have come overnight. "We're blessed that somebody has come forward," said Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff Ricky Edwards.
Sheriff Edwards says a tip from informants gave investigators enough evidence to arrest two people with Lopez's murder. Twenty-two year old Hannah Conner was arrested Wednesday morning in Vermillion Parish, while 51-year-old Frankie Richard was already behind bars.
"Mr. Richard was incarcerated Monday on a rape that had occurred earlier that day. So he's already been in jail," said Edwards.
While both face second degree murder charges for Lopez's death, they're also being investigated for possible involvement in the deaths of Loretta Lynn Chaisson, Ernestine Patterson, and Whitnei Dubois, whose body was found Saturday. Like Lopez, all three women lived what police call "high-risk" lifestyles and were discovered in rural areas of Jeff Davis Parish.
"We are not concluding that these people that the warrants have been issued on are the murderers of the other three. We still don't have that evidence. We are still investigating that, but we are not saying that they are not," said Edwards.
Sheriff Edwards says Richard was seen with at least three of the women in the days before their deaths. As more witnesses come forward, Edwards says it appears that others are involved.
"There could be more arrests made. I feel that they are imminent actually. We are interviewing people as we speak 24 and 7, and putting this investigation together," said Edwards.
Conner and Richard aren't the only arrests that have been made in connection with the deaths of these four women. Bryon Chad Jones and Lawrence Nixon, both of Jennings, are awaiting trial on manslaughter charges in connection with Ernestine Patterson's death. Her body was found in a drainage canal off Highway 102 in June of 2005.